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INTO THE STORM: AMERICAN COVERT INVOLVEMENT IN THE ANGOLAN 

CIVIL WAR, 1974-1975 

by 

Shannon Rae Butler 

Copyright © Shannon Rae Butler 2008 

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the 

DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY 

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements 
For the Degree of 

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPY 

In the Graduate College 

THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA 


2008 



2 


THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA 
GRADUATE COLLEGE 


As members of the Dissertation Committee, we certify that we have read the dissertation 
prepared by Shannon R. Butler 

entitled Into the Storm: American Covert Involvement in the Angolan Civil War, 1974- 


1975 


and recommend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement for the 
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy 


Michael Schaller 


David Gibbs 


John P. Willerton 


Date: October 24, 2008 

Date: October 24, 2008 

Date: October 24. 2008 


Final approval and acceptance of this dissertation is contingent upon the candidate’s 
submission of the final copies of the dissertation to the Graduate College. 

I hereby certify that I have read this dissertation prepared under my direction and 
recommend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement. 


Michael Schaller 


Date: October 24, 2008 


Dissertation Director 



3 


STATEMENT BY AUTHOR 

This dissertation has been submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for an 
advanced degree at the University of Arizona and is deposited in the University Library 
to be made available to borrowers under rules of the Library. 

Brief quotations from this dissertation are allowable without special permission, provided 
that accurate acknowledgment of source is made. Requests for permission for extended 
quotation from or reproduction of this manuscript in whole or in part may be granted by 
the copyright holder. 


SIGNED: Shannon Rae Butler 



4 


TABLE OF CONTENTS 


ABSTRACT 6 

INTRODUCTION: EXPLAINING AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY 

DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES 8 

CHAPTER 1: AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY, AFRICA, AND THE 
PORTUGUESE EMPIRE: THE HORNS OF A 
DILEMMA 41 

CHAPTER 2: HENRY KISSINGER: GLOBAL ARCHITECT 121 

CHAPTER 3: 1974: PORTUGAL IN CRISIS 174 

CHAPTER 4: THE COLONIAL QUESTION: SPINOLA VERSUS 

THE MFA 214 

CHAPTER 5: AMERICAN INTERVENTION IN ANGOLA: 

THE OFFICIAL MYTHOLOGY 269 

CHAPTER 6: AMERICAN INTERVENTION IN ANGOLA: WHY DID 

THE UNITED STATES BECOME INVOLVED? 354 

CHAPTER 7: AMERICAN INTERVENTION IN ANGOLA: 

WHO DID WHAT, AND WHEN? 457 



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TABLE OF CONTENTS - Continued 
CONCLUSION: EXPLAINING AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY 


WHAT DO WE NOW KNOW? 530 

REFERENCES 559 



6 


ABSTRACT 

Angola’s civil war in the mid-1970s has an important role to play in the ongoing 
debate within the diplomatic history community over how best to explain American 
foreign policy. As such, this dissertation uses the Angolan crisis as a case study to 
investigate and unravel the reasons for the American covert intervention on behalf of two 
pro-Westem liberation movements: the National Front for the Liberation of Angola 
(FNLA), led by Holden Roberto, and Jonas Savimbi’s National Union for the Total 
Independence of Angola. That Angola is a late 20 th century example of foreign 
intervention is not disputed. However, the more significant and difficult questions 
surrounding this Cold War episode, which are still debated and which directly relate to 
the purpose of this study, are first, “Why did the United States involve itself in Angola 
when it had previously ignored Portugal’s African colonies, preferring to side with its 
NATO partner and to maintain its distance from Angola’s national liberation 
movements?” Was it really, as the Ford Administration asserted, a case of the United 
States belatedly responding to Soviet expansionism and Kremlin-supported aggression by 
Agostinho Neto’s leftist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). 
Secondly, “Exactly when did the United States intervene, and was this intervention 
largely responsible for the ensuing escalation of violence and external involvement in 
Angola affairs?” In other words, as suggested by the House Select Committee on 



7 


Intelligence, was the Soviet Union’s intervention in response to the American decision to 
allocate $300,000 to Holden Roberto’s National Front in January 1975? If so, then 
contrary to the Ford Administration’s official account of the crisis, the United States - 
and not the Soviet Union - was the initial provocateur in the conflict that left the 
resource-rich West African nation in a ruinous, perpetual state of warfare into the early 
21 st century. 



8 


INTRODUCTION 

EXPLAINING AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY: DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES 

“The Soviet Union’s massive and unprecedented intervention in the 
internal affairs of Africa... are a matter of urgent concern. ” 

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger 1 2 

“The Soviets did not make the first move in Angola. Other people 
did. The Chinese and the United States. The Soviets have been 
a half-step behind, countering our moves. ” 

2 

Anonymous CIA Official 

“Subsequent to President Mobutu ’s request last winter to Dr. 

Kissinger... the Forty Committee approved furnishing Roberto 
$300,000 for various political action activities. ” 

The Pike Committee 3 


This study will attempt to explain the American intervention in the Angolan crisis and 
civil war of the mid-1970s on behalf of two pro-Westem liberation movements: the 
National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), led by Holden Roberto, and Jonas 


1 Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Involvement in Civil War in Angola: Hearing 
before the Subcommittee on African Affairs, 94 th Cong., 2 nd sess., January 29, 1976, 6. Hereafter referred to 
as Angola. 

2 Former CIA agent John Stockwell identified the anonymous official as Brenda MacElhinney. She was 
the CIA desk officer for Angola when he returned to CIA headquarters in late July 1975 to become the 
head of the task force that oversaw the covert American involvement in Angola (code name IAFEATURE). 
“Brenda MacElhinney” is a pseudonym. John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story (New York: 
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978), 62. 

3 “The CIA Report the President Doesn’t Want to Read,” The Village Voice, February 16, 1976, 85. In 
1975, the House Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Representative Otis Pike (D-NY), conducted 
hearings on the American intelligence community, which ran parallel to the Church Committee hearings on 
the same subject in the Senate. The Ford Administration blocked public disclosure of the House 
committee’s findings. Newsman Daniel Schorr of CBS, however, managed to obtain a copy of the official 
report. It was subsequently published in The Village Voice. Holden Roberto of the FNLA had lived nearly 
his entire life in Zaire and had received most of his support from the Zairian president, Sese Seko Mobutu. 
He was also related, by marriage, to Mobutu. 



9 


Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). 4 As David 
Gibbs has observed, foreign intervention - broadly defined as “the manipulation of 
internal politics of one country by another” - has been practiced since at least ancient 
Greece. In the Cold War era, however, it became more common and important. 5 This 
occurred because the possession of nuclear weapons, especially by the United States and 
Soviet Union, made direct confrontation between the two increasingly dangerous. As a 
consequence, the global adversarial competition between the two nations was often 
displaced to indirect confrontation in the Third World, usually either through the use of 
surrogates or through paramilitary, and often, covert operations. 

Angola is a late 20 th century example of foreign intervention. That simple fact is not 
disputed. However, the more significant and difficult questions of this Cold War episode, 
which are still debated and which directly relate to the purpose of this study, are first, 


4 The United States supported both the FNLA and UNITA, viewing them either as pro-West, or at least as 
anti-Communist. By November 1975, this support amounted to at least $32 million dollars. The Soviet 
Union and Cuba were the primary supporters of Agostinho Neto’s Popular Movement for the Liberation of 
Angola (MPLA) during the civil war phase of the Angolan crisis. Yugoslavia also gave significant 
assistance to the Popular Movement. China was a patron of the FNLA and to a lesser extent, UNITA, as 
were Zaire and the Republic of South Africa. During 1975-1976, Zambia primarily supported lonas 
Savimbi’s UNITA, although it had provided limited support to all three liberation movements during their 
struggle against the Portuguese by allowing them sanctuaries inside its territory. However, by early 1975, 
Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s president, had distanced himself from the Marxist Neto, perhaps because of his 
espoused Christian belief. France, Great Britain, West Germany and Belgium also tossed their hats into the 
interventionist ring at different points during the Angolan conflict, although France’s involvement was 
greater than that of the other three West European nations. Thus, a complicated and violent internal 
situation in Angola, brought on by fourteen years of insurgency as well as internecine fighting among the 
three liberation movements, became regionalized and internationalized. 

5 David N. Gibbs, The Political Economy of Third World Intervention: Mines, Money and U.S. Policy in 
the Congo Crisis (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991), 1. 



10 


“Why did the United States involve itself in Angola when it had previously ignored 
Portugal’s African colonies, preferring to side with its NATO partner and to maintain its 
distance from Angola’s three national liberation movements?” Was it really, as the Ford 
Administration asserted, a case of the United States belatedly responding to Soviet 
expansionism and Kremlin-supported aggression by Agostinho Neto’s leftist Popular 
Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA)? 

Secondly, “Exactly when did the United States intervene, and was this intervention 
largely responsible for the ensuing escalation of violence and external involvement in 
Angolan affairs?” In other words, as suggested by the House Select Committee on 
Intelligence (the Pike Committee), was the Soviet Union’s intervention in reaction to the 
Forty Committee’s January 1975 allocation of $300,000 to Holden Roberto’s National 
Front? 6 If so, then the United States - and not the Soviet Union - was the initial 


6 The president’s National Security Advisor, in this case, Henry Kissinger, chaired the Forty Committee. 

Its membership included the Director of Central Intelligence, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of 
Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Attorney General as principal participants. The 
Forty Committee was named for the National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM 40) that established 
the organization as the successor to the 303 Committee, whose name and existence had been leaked to the 
media. On February 16, 1970, in a memorandum to President Nixon, Kissinger recommended that he sign 
the new directive, as attached. The memorandum read, in part, “This directive is a new statement of policy 
affirming the necessity for the continuation of covert action operations in a supplemental role to the overt 
foreign activities of the U.S. Government in its defense and in its efforts for world peace.” “Memorandum 
for the President, Subject: Responsibility for the Conduct, Supervision and Coordination of Covert Action 
Operations,” February 16, 1970, National Security Decision Memoranda, Box H-145, National Archives 
and Records Administration, College Park, MD. William Corson, who has extensively studied and written 
on the American intelligence organization, explains the importance of the establishment of the Forty 
Committee. “NSDM 40’s significance was twofold: it delegated back to the DCI (then Richard Helms) 
from the secretary of state (William Rogers) coordinating authority and responsibilities for covert action 



11 


provocateur in the conflict that left the resource-rich West African nation in a ruinous, 
perpetual state of warfare into the early 21 st century. 7 

Explaining American Foreign Policy: Traditionalism and the Cold War 

The questions raised above, of course, go to the heart of the historical debate among 
diplomatic historians over the conduct of American foreign policy during the Cold War 
era. In its most fundamental form, that debate often revolved around the issue of which 
nation, the United States or the Soviet Union, was primarily responsible not only for the 
onset of the Cold War, but importantly as it relates to this study, for its expansion to the 
periphery. 

Early on, the majority of diplomatic historians, in what became known as the 

Traditionalist or Orthodox perspective, contended that the Soviet Union was largely to 

proposals, and it declared that covert action was to be employed to facilitate American Foreign policy 
objectives rather than simply to counter the threat of international communism.” William R. Corson, The 
Rise of the American Intelligence Empire (New York: The Dial Press/James Wade Books, 1977), 412-413. 
The purpose, if not the effect, of NSDM 40 was to give more control over the intelligence community to 
the president and his national security advisor. 

7 British political scientist George Wright has chronicled the systematic devastation of Angola through the 
years of guerrilla warfare prior to its independence, the succeeding civil war, and the continuation of 
guerrilla warfare by Savimbi’s UNITA after independence, supported by the United States and South 
Africa. George Wright, The Destruction of a Nation: United States’ Policy toward Angola since 1945 
(Chicago: Pluto Press, 1997). American author and free-lance journalist, Karl Maier, details the human 
tragedy in Angola: Promises and Lies (Rivonia, UK: William Waterman Publications, 1996). 

Government forces killed Jonas Savimbi in February 2002. It has only been since his death that the 
Angolan government has had the opportunity, however daunting, to unify and rebuild the devastated nation. 
As noted in one of the many obituaries on Savimbi, “By the end of the 1980s, his army, supplied and 
funded by the CIA and aided by numerous South African invasions, had laid waste much of Angola. 
Swathes of the countryside were cut off from agriculture by minefields, mine victims and malnourished 
children swamped the hospitals and tens of thousands were also kidnapped by UNITA troops.” “Jonas 
Savimbi: Angolan Leader who Continued to Wage Pointless Guerrilla War,” Irish Times, March 9, 2002, 
16. 



12 


blame for the Cold War. They assumed that the United States, because of its democratic 
institutions and values, was largely benevolent, peaceful, and defensive in nature, and 
that its foreign policy reflected these characteristics. Conversely, the Marxist-Leninist 
ideology amplified the inherently aggressive nature of the Soviet Union - the successor to 
imperial Russia - driving its expansionist ambitions. 

Based upon these core assumptions. Traditionalists argued that in the aftermath of 
World War II, as large areas of the world, but especially Western Europe at first, lay 
vulnerable to Soviet aggression, the United States, still tied to its historical isolationist 
tendencies, only reluctantly responded to the Communist threat to freedom and 
democracy. In general, then. Traditionalists emphasize that external factors - in this case 
the threat posed by the Soviet Union and Communism, in general - have been the 
primary determinants of American foreign policy behavior. 

The assumptions and arguments of Traditionalism most often reflected the attitudes 
and sentiments of the White House and the official Washington foreign policy 
establishment. Moreover, the origins and evolution of the Traditionalist perspective 
paralleled the development of the American Cold War political culture. Thus, in 1967, 
historian Arthur M. Schlesinger could write, apparently with conviction, that “The Cold 
War was the brave and essential response of free men to communist aggression,” and that 
“So long as the Soviet Union remained a messianic state, ideology compelled a steady 



13 


Q 

expansion of communist power.” In this sentiment, he echoed the earlier thoughts of the 

first Cold War president, Harry S. Truman, whose arguments for American assistance to 

Turkey and Greece set the tone and provided the direction for the early Traditionalists. 

Concerned that both nations would succumb to Communist insurgencies, President 

Truman announced in March 1947: 

At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must 
choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often 
not a free one. One way of life is based upon the will of the 
majority. . .the second way of life is based upon the will of a 
minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon 
terror and oppression. . .1 believe it must be the policy of the 
United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted 
subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure. 8 9 

As mentioned, the disagreements between Traditionalists and Revisionists also concern 
which nation, the United States or the Soviet Union, was the most responsible for 
extending Cold War hostilities into the Third World, obviously a dispute that bears 
directly upon the purposes of this study. Traditionalists argue that the Soviet Union was 
the main provocateur in this dynamic of the Cold War. They base their assessment, as 
orthodox historian Douglas Macdonald tells us, upon the assumption that early in the 


8 Arthur M. Schlesinger, “The Origins of the Cold War,” Foreign Affairs 46, no. 1 (October 1967): 47. 
The author admits that in the post-World War II environment, Moscow could have perceived some 
American policies, the Marshall Plan and NATO, for example, as threatening to its own security. Still, he 
concluded that Stalin and his associates were so consumed by Communist ideology and authoritarianism, 
and Stalin by “his paranoid moments,” that Soviet expansionism was inevitable. Ibid. 

9 Harry S. Truman, “The Truman Doctrine,” in American Defense Policy , 4 th ed., eds. John E. Endicott and 
Roy W. Stafford, Jr. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 61. 



14 


Cold War the Soviet Union directed a worldwide, united Communist bloc that was 
“driven to expand its sphere of influence by the shared totalist ideological tenets of 
Marxism-Leninism, largely as defined by Moscow.” 10 Josef Stalin, then, conspired with 
like-minded leaders in the Third World, such as North Korea’s Kim II Sung, in a 
Kremlin-engineered plan to impose Communist hegemony upon others. Their task was 
made easier by the lack of any coherent American security policy in the Asian periphery. 
Explaining American Foreign Policy: Revisionism and the Cold War 
By the mid-1960s, an emergent grouping of diplomatic historians, often collectively 
termed “the New Left,” or “Revisionists,” challenged the traditionalist interpretation. 
Crystallized by the ongoing war in Vietnam, these historians openly questioned 
fundamental orthodox assumptions about the benign and well-intentioned nature of 
American diplomacy. 11 Unlike the Traditionalist emphasis on external factors, 
Revisionists have stressed domestic economic determinants as being primarily 
responsible for the basic character and motivations of American foreign policy. 

Based on this assumption, they argue that the United States has historically been 
expansionist in pursuit of open global markets, which were needed to sustain and grow 

10 Douglas Macdonald, “Communist Bloc Expansion in the Early Cold War: Challenging Realism, 
Refuting Revisionism,” International Security, 20, no. 3 (Winter 1994/1995), 179. 

1 1 Peter Novick has chronicled the emergence and evolution of traditionalism, revisionism and post- 
revisionism in That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question and the American Historical Profession 
(New York: Cambridge Press, 1988), especially Chapter 13, “The Collapse of Comity,” 415-468. 



15 


American liberal capitalism. American economic hegemony was both an end goal and an 
enabling objective: it benefited continued capitalistic expansion and the American 
economy, while at the same time it enhanced the nation’s geostrategic power and global 
leverage. 

With a preponderance of power in the aftermath of the Second World War, these 
related goals seemingly became attainable. The major obstacles were the Soviet Union 
and, in the periphery, the growth of generally anti-capitalistic, indigenous liberation 
movements. Consequently, American unilateral actions following the war’s end, 
designed to restructure a world order that would sustain the United States’ wartime 
prosperity, left little or no room for serious consideration of either Soviet security 
concerns or Third World nationalistic aspiration. Further, in pursuit of global hegemony, 
American decision makers portrayed the Soviet Union, and Marxism-Leninism in 
general, as “on the march.” They justified the commitment of enormous material and 
human resources in terms of defending democracy and freedom against this Communist 
onslaught. Consequently, it was primarily American actions that issued in the Cold War 
era. 

The Revisionist position on the question of the Cold War’s expansion to the periphery 
flows logically from their assumptions about the nature and purposes of American 
foreign policy. Economic dominance, and the geopolitical power that came with it, 



16 


required that the United States attain and maintain unfettered access to foreign markets. 
Political instability and social upheaval in the Third World, largely the result of growing 
nationalism, posed a threat to American hegemony, with serious implications for the 
nation’s national security interests and its role in the world. Consequently, the United 
States has largely been an anti-revolutionary and interventionist power. It has used all 
available resources to counter disruptions to the status quo in the periphery, including 
diplomacy, covert and paramilitary activities, war-by-proxy, and finally overt American 
military intervention. 

Explaining American Foreign Policy: Credibility 

Most Revisionist historiography, as discussed, has emphasized the domestic economic 
imperatives of America’s geopolitical strategies. However, as observed by historian 
Thomas J. McCormick, even the most well-known Revisionist historian, William 
Appleman Williams, was “never a narrow economic determinist.” While still arguing 
that American foreign policy has been imperialistic and that the Cold War was much 
more complex than the Traditionalist perspective would have us believe, the Revisionist 
perspective also encompasses less tangible, but still internal determinants, to explain 

12 Thomas McCormick, “What Would William Appleman Williams Say Now?” Passport 38, no. 2 (August 
2007): 17. McCormick opined that if Williams were alive today, his assessment of current American 
foreign policy, most notably the war in Iraq, would have highlighted the importance of oil, “partly because 
of the economic value of the oil itself, but more largely because of the geopolitical clout over others made 
possible by the control of oil.” Ibid. 



17 


American external behavior. Anders Stevenson and other historians, for example, have 
stressed the historical significance of ideology, especially that of American 
exceptionalism, in the making of foreign policy. Still others, most notably McCormick, 
have emphasized the importance that American Cold War leaders assigned to the notion 
of credibility as it relates to global leadership and the exercise of power. 

As analyzed by historian Robert J. McMahon, maintaining credibility has been one of 
the key determinants of American global behavior in the nuclear age, even in situations 
of only marginal importance to the American national interest. As a result of what he 
refers to as the American fixation or preoccupation with credibility, “small issues will 
often loom large, not because of their intrinsic importance, but because they are taken as 
tests of resolve .” 14 Moreover, credibility has a double significance, because “Just as 
threats need to be credible to deter potential aggressors, so too must promises be credible 
to reassure friends .” 15 


13 Anders Stevenson, Manifest Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of Right, 1600-1990 (New 
York: Hill and Wang, 1995). On ideology and American foreign policy, see also N. Gordon Levin, Jr., 
Woodrow Wilson and World Politics: America’s Response to War and Revolution (1917-1919) (New 
York: Oxford University Press, 1968). Thomas J. McCormick, America’s Half-Century: United States 
Foreign Policy in the Cold War and After , 2d ed. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1995). 

14 Robert Jervis, The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution: Statecraft and the Prospect of Armageddon 
(Ithaca, 1989), 39, cited in Robert J. McMahon, “Credibility and World Power: Exploring the 
Psychological Dimension in Postwar American Diplomacy,” Diplomatic History 15, no. 4 (Fall 1991): 
457. 

15 Ibid., 455. 



18 


The concept of credibility is not the exclusive purview of the Revisionist perspective. 
As McMahon has observed, “Broad overviews of the postwar era by historians as diverse 
in their interpretive approaches as John Lewis Gaddis, Gabriel Kolko, and Thomas J. 
McCormick. . .have identified credibility as a cardinal precept for America’s 
policymaking elite .” 16 However, Revisionist historians have generally given more 
attention and legitimacy to credibility as a determinant of international behavior, and 
none more so than McCormick. 

Credibility is especially important to this study. As will be discussed further, the 
American defeat in Vietnam deeply concerned President Ford and his primary foreign 
policy adviser, Henry Kissinger. Both believed that the nation’s prestige and leadership 
had been seriously compromised during the long years of the American involvement, 
with dangerous consequences for both the United States’ future standing in the world and 
international equilibrium. Kissinger’s own words underscore the importance he 
attached to American credibility in the aftermath of Vietnam and his understanding of its 
significant double meaning. “No serious policy maker could allow himself to succumb to 
the fashionable debunking of ‘prestige’ or ‘honor’ or ‘credibility.’ We could not 


16 Ibid., 457-458. 

17 Walter Isaacson reveals Kissinger’s preoccupation with credibility by noting, “From his Foreign Affairs 
piece in 1968, to his analysis of Vietnam options in 1969, to his arguments in early 1975 as Saigon was 
falling, Kissinger put enormous weight on the credibility argument.” Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: A 
Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.), 656. 



19 


revitalize the Atlantic Alliance if its governments were assailed by doubt about American 
staying power. We would not be able to move the Soviet Union toward the imperative of 
mutual restraint against the background of capitulation in a major war .” 18 

For the United States to regain and sustain its dominant position, then, American 
credibility needed to be restored. The Angolan conflict, which escalated even as the 
North Vietnamese began their speedy dispatch of the American-supported South 
Vietnamese government and military forces, presented a timely opportunity to 
rehabilitate American resolve and competence. 

Explaining American Foreign Policy: The Pericentric Paradigm 
Aside from the dialectic of the Traditional versus Revisionist debate, historian Tony 
Smith has introduced an alternative way to think about super-power behavior as it relates 
to the expansion of the Cold War. In explaining the need for a Pericentric framework, 
Smith argues that the existing frameworks for analyzing American policy have avoided, 
ignored, or simply discounted “actors other than those in Washington and Moscow (and 
at times Beijing) for being able to mold events to the degree that they could .” 19 


IS Henry Kissinger, White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1979), 228. 

19 Tony Smith, “New Bottles for New Wine: A Pericentric Framework for the Study of the Cold War,” 
Diplomatic History 24, no. 4 (Fall 2000): 591. Smith’s criticism is not entirely warranted, at least as it is 
directed at Revisionism. There are a number of Revisionist studies that emphasize the initiative of 
peripheral actors in fomenting and escalating super-power tensions in the Third World. These include, but 
are not limited to, Thomas McCormick’s broad overview of American foreign policy in the latter half of 
the 20 th century. He extensively discusses sub-imperialism, which he defines as the use of substitutes or 
proxies to act on behalf of a given core power in the periphery. This type of policy, however, contained a 



20 


Pericentrism focuses on the role played by Third World leaders. Historians (and 
statesmen) have traditionally portrayed these individuals as pawns or proxies of the great 
powers. According to Smith, they sometimes acted defensively or out of fear. Just as 
often, however, they were “high-rolling risk takers, committed ideologues, brazen 
manipulators and opportunists able to use the world crisis for their own needs.” At 
times, they engaged in deliberate actions that pulled Moscow and Washington (and 
sometimes Beijing) into situations they neither desired nor anticipated. These peripheral 
leaders were self-centered and self-motivated because during the Cold War they “had 

21 

obtained valuable resources that might be lost should the superpowers come to terms. 
Their actions contributed to the extension of super-power involvement around the globe, 
which also increased the longevity of the Cold War. In short, as Revisionist and World 
Systems historian Thomas McCormick had told us some five years before in his study, 


dangerous threat to global stability. “Unilateral actions by proxies might drag the great powers into open 
conflict, against their interest and judgment. In other words, the tail might wag the dog.” McCormick, 
America’s Half-Century , 186. More recently, studies by Piero Gleijeses on the Cuban involvement in 
Africa, with a focus on Angola, and by Kathryn Weathersby on the Korean War emphasize the initiative 
and independent actions of Fidel Castro and Kim II Sung, respectively. Importantly, their studies also 
demonstrate the cautious and largely unenthusiastic attitude of the Kremlin decision makers for the actions 
of their Communist allies. Piero Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1 956- 
1976 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); Kathryn Weathersby, “The Korean War 
Revisited,” Wilson Quarterly 32 (Summer 1999): 91-97. 

20 Smith, “New Bottles for New Wine,” 569. 

21 Ibid., 588-589. 




21 


America ’s Half-Century, Smith argues that there is such a thing in international relations 
as “the tail wagging the dog.” 22 

Post-Revisionism and the Historical Debate 

Since the 1980s, the efforts of the Post-revisionists to find some consensus in Cold 
War historiography have failed to bridge the gap between the core assumptions of the 
Traditional perspective and those of the Revisionists. Post-revisionists, whose leading 
spokesmen has been John Lewis Gaddis, contend that they represent a synthesis of 
thinking that “draws from both traditional and revisionist interpretations” to present a 

23 

more accurate and balanced explanation of the Cold War. 


22 McCormick, America ’s Half-Century, 186. 

23 John Lewis Gaddis, “The Emerging Post-Revisionist Synthesis on the Origins of the Cold War,” 
Diplomatic History 7, no. 3 (Summer 1983): 172. J. Samuel Walker was the first historian to use the term 
“Post-Revisionism” to describe the alleged synthesis between Traditionalism and Revisionism. J. Samuel 
Walker, “Historians and Cold War Origins: The New Consensus,” in American Foreign Relations: A 
Historiographical Review , ed. Gerald K. Haines and J. Samuel Walker (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 
1981), 207-236. Post-revisionists have generally conceded the following points to Revisionism, but only 
with explicit qualifications. First, they have incorporated the Revisionist idea of an American empire into 
their narratives, but their concept of empire is very different. For the Post-revisionist, The American 
empire was defensive, invited and improvised; the Soviet Union, in contrast, imposed it dominion upon 
unwilling neighbors. Secondly, while Post-revisionists often analyze the use of economic power in 
American foreign policy, they emphasize that such uses were designed to achieve political ends, and 
especially in the early Cold War years, to help “redress the political-military balance of power, “ but not to 
“stave off what was seen as an otherwise inevitable collapse of the capitalist order.” Gaddis, “The 
Emerging Post-Revisionist Synthesis,” 175. Thirdly, Post-Revisionists concede that, at least early in the 
Cold War era, American leaders, such as President Truman, believed it necessary to administer a form of 
shock treatment to garner congressional and public support for the anticipated material and human costs of 
the containment policy. However, they do not use the revisionist term, “manufacturing consensus,” and 
reject the revisionist claim that the American leadership extracted support for containment and other 
American hegemonic policies by systematically positing a life and death struggle between beneficent 
democracy and sinister Communism. Referring to the 1947 speech announcing the Truman Doctrine, for 
example, Gaddis remarked, “a certain amount of rhetorical dramatization” was necessary to “prod 



22 


Despite this claim to a new consensus, two very distinct interpretations on the Cold 
War still exist. In fact, both Traditionalists and Revisionists alike have rejected Post- 
revisionism. Bruce Cumings, a leading voice in the Revisionist camp, called it anti- 
revisionist, and others, such as Warren F. Kimball, have labeled it “orthodoxy plus 
archives. Robert Buzzanco perhaps best expressed the Revisionist viewpoint by 
noting that Post-revisionism still remains tied to the Orthodox umbilical cord in its 
assumptions about the character of American foreign policy. “Conventional Wisdom, 
basking in Cold War triumphalism and weighty studies of national security, has virtually 
returned to the earliest interpretation of U.S. foreign relations, claiming that American 
leaders acted globally (albeit, sometimes, aggressively) in pursuit of legitimate strategic 
objectives or to counter dangerous global trends (especially communism) or to promote 

? c 

American values abroad.” 

Orthodox historian Douglas J. Macdonald criticizes Post-revisionism for the attempt to 
stake out a middle ground of shared responsibility for the Cold War based on “mutual 


parsimonious legislators into approving economic and military assistance to Greece and Turkey.” John 
Lewis Gaddis, “The Cold War, The Long Peace, and the Future,” in The End of the Cold War , Its Meaning 
and Implication, ed. Michael J. Hogan (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 23. Still, Gaddis 
and other Post-revisionists reject the “revisionist view of cynical national administrations imposing their 
cold-blooded geopolitical visions upon an unsuspecting public.” Gaddis, “The Emerging Post-Revisionist 
Synthesis,” 180. 

24 Bruce Cumings, “ ‘Revising Postrevisionism, ’ or. The Poverty of Theory in Diplomatic History,” 
Diplomatic History 17, no. 4 (Fall 1993): 553; Warren F. Kimball, “Response to Gaddis, The Emerging 
Post-Revisionist Synthesis,” 198. 

25 Robert Buzzanco, “What Happened to the New Left? Toward a Radical Reading of American Foreign 
Relations,” Diplomatic History 23, no. 4 (Fall 1999): 579. 



23 


misperception” and “ mutual reactivity” by the superpowers. He opined that the 
emphasis on joint culpability allowed Post-revisionist historians to bifurcate their 
analyses of American Cold War policies. They could support American security policies 
in Europe while criticizing American policies in the Third World with which they 
sometimes disagreed, such as the Vietnamese conflict. In other words, Macdonald 
criticizes Post-Revisionists for wanting to have their cake and eat it too. 26 

Do the New Documents Resolve the Historical Debate? 

The demise of the Soviet Union and the subsequent opening of some Soviet and other 
Communist archives have presented Western scholars with expanded opportunities to 
reassess Cold War historiography. 27 As a result, since the mid-1990s, historians have 
produced a steady stream of studies that purport, as noted by historian Steven Miner, “to 
reveal the hidden truths of the Soviet Union.” However, access to the new sources has 
not resolved the arguments surrounding the different perspectives for explaining 


26 Macdonald, “Communist Bloc Expansion in the Early Cold War,” 155. Interestingly, despite 
Macdonald’s criticisms of Post-revisionists, they still basically support the traditionalist perspective on the 
expansion of the Cold War in that they generally identify the Soviet Union as the primary culprit. Gaddis 
does this when he discusses the introduction of super-power hostilities to Asia. Reiterating the 
Traditionalist’s emphasis on the role of ideology in Soviet foreign policy, he argues that Stalin, Mao 
Zedong, Kim II Sung, and Ho Chi Minh enjoyed Marxist-Leninist solidarity and shared “A common sense 
of ideological euphoria - a conviction that the forces of history were on their side.” According to Gaddis, 
this certainty, along with often-ambiguous American policies in Asia that created a power and policy 
vacuum, at times led Stalin to abandon all caution, as evidenced by his approval of the North Korean 
invasion of South Korea in lune 1950. John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History 
(New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1997), 83. 

27 The “old” historiography was based almost exclusively on American and Western archival materials. 



24 


American foreign policy. As Miner observes, “Documents seldom resolve historical 
questions.” The scholar brings his or her own pre-conceived notions, assumptions, and 
biases to the table, all of which affect objectivity. Consequently, the historian is 
susceptible to making important, if not crucial, interpretative mistakes. As historian 
David L. Anderson more recently noted in his 2006 SHAFR presidential address, 
“Because ‘facts’ are often incomplete or contested and leave room for subjective 
interpretation based upon ideology or partisanship, the meaning of past events will 
always be debatable.”” 

A good example of the different interpretations that historians give to their readings of 
new documents is provided by Douglas Macdonald’s analysis of the Soviet role in the 
North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 and that of Kathryn Weathersby. 
Based on her extensive research in Soviet archives, Weathersby argues that the initiative 
for the North Korean invasion came from Kim II Sung, and not Josef Stalin. She has 
documented 48 different discussions between Kim and Stalin before the latter finally 
gave his conditional approval for the North Korean invasion. Even so, Stalin’s final 
sanctioning of the offensive came only after Kim had talked to Mao Zedong and received 
the latter’s promise of support. Weathersby’ s analysis reveals not only the agency of 

~ s Steven M. Miner, “Revelations, Secrets, Gossips, and Lies: Sifting Warily through the Soviet Archives,” 
The New York Review of Books (May 14, 1995): 19, 20. 

29 David L. Anderson, “One Vietnam War Should be Enough and Other Reflections on Diplomatic History 
and the Making of Foreign Policy,” Diplomatic History 30, no. 1 (January 2006): 2. 



25 


North Korea’s Kim, but also Stalin’s cautious and pragmatic approach to the problems on 
the Korean Peninsula. Stalin realized that China’s involvement would significantly 
increase the already high level of tension between the United States and China, deepening 

30 

the latter’s dependence on the Soviet Union. 

In contrast, the orthodox explanation for the invasion based, as Macdonald claims, 
upon “the new evidence,” tells us first, that in the early Cold War, American and others 
Western leaders were correct in their assumptions about the expansionist ambitions of the 
Soviet Union. Although Communist expansion was checked in Europe and the Middle 
East by “robust” containment policies, the lack of a coherent American, or Western, 
policy in Asia, which created a political vacuum, opened the door for the Kremlin’s 
ideologically driven opportunism. 

Secondly, according to Macdonald, the new evidence also shows that, at least early on 
in Asia, there was a unified Communist bloc directed by Moscow. North Korea was 
nothing more than a Kremlin satellite in this bloc, and took its orders from the Soviet 
Union. “The detailed plans for the invasion were drawn up by the Soviets and then 
communicated to the Koreans. The North Koreans never took any major actions without 
first consulting with the Soviets. The Soviets were not only not surprised by the timing 
of the attack, as often claimed, but helped choose its date and timing. . .By any reasonable 

30 Weathersby, “The Korean War Revisited,” passim. 



26 


measurement, this is an unusually high degree of control over the freedom of action of 
another state.” 31 

Not being a student of the Korean War, nor having reviewed the “new” documents on 
that conflict, I cannot judge which scholar is most accurate on this issue. Still, it is clear 
that their differing interpretations come, at least in part, from their judgments and 
assumptions about the Soviet- American Cold War relationship, the motivations and 
natures of both nations, and the agency (or lack thereof in the case of the Traditionalist 
Macdonald) of peripheral actors. 

In conclusion, despite the release of many American and some Soviet Cold War 
documents, not to mention a plethora of memoirs and interviews published since the 
demise of the Soviet Union, two contrasting interpretations of American (and Soviet) 
behavior during the Cold War still clearly exist. Pericentrism adds a third framework 
specifically as Cold War tensions and hostilities manifested themselves in the Third 
World. 

What Do The New Documents Tell Us? 

Despite these continuing interpretive differences, the emerging historiography of the 
Cold War has made important contributions to a more subtle understanding of its 
globalization within the context of both Soviet and American behavior. These 

31 Macdonald, “Communist Bloc Expansion in the Early Cold War,” 185. 



27 


contributions are especially relevant to Angola’s story, as I will explain below. My 
discussion is based on historian Melvin P. Leffler’s reviews of many of the new archival- 
based studies . 32 

First, as Leffler informs us, much of the new historiography suggests that at least in the 
early post-World War II era, the Soviet Union was not aggressively seeking to expand its 
dominion and was more concerned with realist “security dilemma” issues. “The Cold 
War was not a simple case of Soviet expansionism and American reaction. Real-politik 
held sway in the Kremlin. Ideology played an important role in shaping their 
perceptions, but Soviet leaders were not focused on promoting worldwide revolution. 
They were concerned mostly with configurations of power, with protecting their 
country’s immediate periphery, ensuring its security, and preserving their rule.” 

Leffler based this conclusion on new studies by Vladislav Zubok and Constantine 
Pleshakov and Vojtech Mastney . 34 This point, of course, seriously calls into question the 
Traditionalist allegation that the Communist ideology was synonymous with 
expansionism and global domination. 


32 Leffler’s two review essays are: “Inside Enemy Archives: The Cold War Reopened,” Foreign Affairs 
75, no. 4 (July-August 1996), [database on-line]; available from JSTOR; “The Cold War: What Do ‘We 
Now Know?”’ American Flistorical Review 104, no. 2 (April 1999): 501-524. 

33 Leffler, “Inside Enemy Archives.” 

34 Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov, Inside the Kremlin ’s Cold War: From Stalin to 
Khrushchev (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), and Vojtech Mastney, The Cold War and Soviet 
Insecurity: The Stalin Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). 



28 


Secondly, American policies also greatly affected the Kremlin’s decision making 
during the Cold War. Zubok and Pleshakov are again instructive. After analyzing Soviet 
actions from an essentially Traditionalist perspective, emphasizing revolutionary 
imperialism, Leffler tells us the authors were “forced to admit” that the policies of the 
West played a key role in Soviet behavior. They further “admit” that Soviet policies 
were largely defensive and in response to American policy, especially after the Truman 
Administration’s increased bellicosity, as evidenced by the use of Atomic diplomacy and 
the introduction of the Marshall Plan and later, NATO, among other American 
initiatives . 35 

American policy, then, was not quite as passive, or blameless, as the Traditionalists 
would have us believe. As Leffler points out, as the Cold War expanded, first to Asia, 
the orthodox account of Soviet, Chinese, Korean and American actions “infuses almost 
no agency whatsoever into the American side.” They “pay almost no attention to the 
conscious U.S. initiatives to monopolize the occupation of Japan, divide Korea, deploy 
Marines to China, and accept the return of French rule to Indochina. . .A full account of 
the Cold War in Asia. . .must take cognizance of American actions .” 36 

In sum, and importantly for the purpose of this study, the most recent archival evidence 
points out two important characteristics of Soviet and American behavior. First, 

35 Leffler, “The Cold War: What Do ‘We Now Know?”’ 511-512. 

36 Ibid., 521-522. 



29 


Moscow’s foreign policy was most often pragmatic and defensive, even if at times 
opportunistic. Moreover, Soviet behavior was neither inherently aggressive nor 
expansionist in nature. Given this, one can reasonably question the Ford 
Administration’s allegation that Soviet intervention in Angola was a clear-cut case of 
Soviet-initiated aggression in support of the MPLA. Indeed, as discussed later in this 
study, we shall see that the Soviet Union was slow to support its long-term client, even as 
the American-supported FNLA increased its attacks against the Popular Movement in the 
spring of 1975. 

Secondly, Soviet foreign policy did not occur in a political vacuum. It is imperative to 
account for the actions of the United States in any explanation of why the Cold War 
became globalized. The United States intervened in Angola at least as early as January 
22, 1975, as the Forty Committee approved the allocation of $300,000 in alleged 
“political” monies to Holden Roberto’s FNLA. Henry Kissinger and others have 
downplayed the significance of that funding. However, as we shall see, the financial 
increase to the FNLA’s coffers, not to mention the psychological boost to Roberto’s 
confidence, had serious consequences for the peace accord the three liberation 

IT 

movements had agreed upon at Alvor, Portugal on January 15, 1975. 

7 In early January 1975, the leaders of all three liberation movements met with the Portuguese government 
in Alvor in southern Portugal. Despite their historical animosities, they agreed upon a peaceful path to 
independence. Among other things, the Alvor accord established a transitional government in which the 



30 


Keeping in mind the above-discussion on what the new documents tell us about the 
Soviet- American relationship, and the disagreements among historians over how best to 
explain American foreign policy, in the next few pages I will briefly review the Angolan 
conflict through the lens of the differing perspectives I have discussed. From this, I will 
venture some preliminary observations about the American intervention in Angola. 

These observations will provide the background and basis for my in-depth discussions on 
the same subject in Chapters 5 to 7. 

Explaining American Intervention in Angola: Traditionalism 

As discussed earlier, the Traditionalists portray the United States as a historically 
benevolent and well-intentioned great power, and one whose actions were largely 
defensive in nature. In contrast, they have assessed the Soviet Union as an aggressive, 
expansionist power, driven by an ideology that espoused global domination. In the face 
of such a threat, the United States, as the leader of the Free World, was obligated to 
oppose Communist aggression. If the Traditionalist perspective is correct, then American 
intervention in Angola represented a countervailing response to a Soviet initiative to 
dominate the soon-to-be independent nation and secure a foothold on the African 
continent. 


Portuguese and all three groups would be represented. It also provided for the integration of the three 
movements’ military forces with Portugal’s colonial army, elections no later than October 31, 1975, and 
independence on November 11, 1975. 




31 


This is exactly what officials of the Ford Administration have argued. They 
consistently claimed that it was the Soviet Union’s massive and unprovoked support for 
the MPLA that destroyed the Alvor agreement, led to full-scale civil war, and 
precipitated the American involvement. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in an 
address before the Detroit Economic Club in November 1975, summarized this position. 
“We cannot ignore... the substantial Soviet buildup of weapons in Angola, which has 
introduced great-power rivalry into Africa for the first time in 15 years. . .The United 
States cannot be indifferent while an outside power embarks upon an interventionist 
policy. . .so distant from its homeland and so removed from traditional Russian 
interests.” 38 

Later, as Congress debated, and disapproved, the White House’s request for an 
additional $9 million for both the FNLA and UNITA, President Ford again laid the blame 
for the Angolan war on the Kremlin’s doorstep. In his public rebuke to the Senate on 
December 19, which had just passed the Tunney Amendment prohibiting further 
American assistance to the two pro-Westem factions in Angola, he first asserted that the 
decision would “profoundly” affect American national security. The president then 

38 Henry Kissinger, “Building an Enduring Foreign Policy,” U.S. Department of State, The Department of 
State Bulletin LXXIII, no. 1903 (December 15, 1975): 843, 844. 

39 On December 19, 1975, following the Ford Administration’s early November request for an additional 
$9 million for the FNLA and UNITA, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the Tunney Amendment, 
which was attached as a policy rider to the FY 76 Defense Appropriations Act. The amendment. 



32 


rhetorically asked, “How can the United States. . .take the position that the Soviet Union 
can operate with impunity many thousands of miles away with Cuban troops and massive 
amounts of military equipment, while we refuse any assistance to the majority of the 
local people, who ask only for military equipment to defend themselves?” 40 

A few days later, following script and in words eerily reminiscent of Harry Truman’s 

March 1947 speech, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger defended and justified the 

American involvement in Angola by noting: 

The issue is not whether the country of Angola represents a vital 
interest to the United States. The issue is whether the Soviet Union, 
backed by a Cuban expeditionary force, can impose on two-thirds 
of the population its own brand of government. . .The issue is 
whether the United States will disqualify itself from giving a 
minimal amount of economic and military assistance to the two- 
thirds of the population that is resisting an expeditionary force 


introduced by John Tunney (D-CA), prohibited any additional funding to the pro-American factions, which 
by November 1975 had already received at least $32 million in covert American assistance. In late January 
1976, the House of Representatives also approved the amendment. President Ford, not wanting to hold up 
funding to the Defense Department, signed the legislation into law. Moreover, in late November 1975, the 
White House requested yet another $28 million for the pro-Western factions in Angola, believing that its 
request would quietly be approved through a simple budgetary reprogramming by pro-administration 
members of the Congress. However, in the immediate post-Vietnam era, and with a new Democratic 
majority Congress trying to reassert its role in foreign policy, the budgetary “shell game” didn’t work. 
Senator Clark (D-IA), the Chairman of the African Affairs Subcommittee, and the prime mover behind the 
Tunney Amendment, conducted a series of hearing to try to determine exactly how and why the United 
States had become involved in the Angolan conflict. Following these hearings of late January to early 
February 1976, the senator introduced his own amendment - attached as a rider to the Foreign Assistance 
Act - to prohibit further funding to the “anti-Communist” forces in Angola. Both the Senate and the House 
approved the Clark Amendment, which remained in effect until its repeal during the Reagan 
Administration. 

40 “President Deplores Senate Cutoff of Additional Funds for Angola,” Statement by President Ford (made 
to correspondents in the press briefing room at the White House on December 19, 1975), Department of 
State, The Department of State Bulletin LXXIV, no. 1908 (January 19, 1976): 76-77 . 



33 


from outside the hemisphere and a massive introduction of Soviet 
military equipment . 41 

This perspective on the events in Angola quite clearly blames the Soviet Union, aided 
and abetted by its Cuban proxies, for initiating (and escalating) the conflict. It also 
portrays American policy as one of modestly supporting the majority of Angolans who 
were attempting to resist subjugation by the alleged Communist-dominated and 
Communist-supported MPLA. It is consistent with the Traditionalist framework for 
explaining American foreign policy, but is it a true representation of what happened in 
Angola? Besides the official spinning of facts, including the implication that the MPLA 
was a “minority” political movement, the contention that the United States was simply 
responding to Soviet-supported aggression is questionable. " The following discussion 


41 “Secretary Kissinger’s News Conference of December 23,” Department of State, The Department of 
State Bulletin LXXIV, no. 1908 (January 19, 1976): 71. 

42 Officials of the Ford Administration were quick to label the MPLA as a minority political movement 
with little or no support outside Luanda and the coastal cities to the south. They alleged that this situation 
meant that the Popular Movement would be unable to politically dominate Angola’s future government 
after scheduled October elections. This assumed, of course, that black Angolans would vote along strictly 
ethnic lines and that rural Angolans would be motivated to vote, able to access election sites, and would 
vote for the more rural-based FNLA and UNITA. While smaller than UNITA’s ethnic base of an estimated 
two million Ovimbundu, primarily located in rural central and southern Angola, The Mbundu ethnic base 
of the MPLA, estimated at between 1.4 and 2 million, was larger than the FNLA’s largely rural base of 
about 700,000 Bakongo. Further, as an assessment by the conservative Hudson Institute noted that the 
Popular Movement also enjoyed considerable support in rural areas, not just in the major cities. Citing the 
effectiveness of the MPLA’s political organization, the report concluded that the MPLA would be “at an 
advantage when and if elections came, but could be outplayed by a Roberto backed militarily by Mobutu’s 
Zaire or by Savimbi with all his political sagacity, opportunism, and a potential for benefiting from 
nationalist discord and internecine fighting.” Tunde Adeniran, Trends in World Affairs: Africa in the 
Years to Come , vol. 5, Angola (Croton-on-Hudson, New York: Hudson Institute, Inc., 1975), 61, 67. 



34 


shows that we must look beyond the administration’s “official story” to more correctly 
explain the American intervention. 

Explaining American Intervention in Angola: Revisionism 

As previously noted, Revisionists assume, and argue, that the United States has 
historically been expansionist both for economic and geostrategic reasons. In the Cold 
War era, Washington’s pursuit of these dual goals often led the United States to intervene 
in the affairs of the Third World where nationalist movements, often led by radical 
Socialists or Marxist-Leninists, posed a threat to the American objectives. As a result, 
the United States was, more often than not, the main provocateur in the globalization of 
Soviet- American tensions and hostilities. 

As it relates to Angola, a Revisionist perspective would tell us that we should not be 
surprised if the American involvement not only preceded that of the Soviet Union, but 
also triggered the latter’s intervention. Both the Pike Committee and Senator Clark 
suggested just that. Referring to the Forty Committee’s January allocation of $300,000 to 
Holden Roberto’s FNLA, the Pike report noted, “Later events have suggested that the 
infusion of U.S. aid, unprecedented and massive in the underdeveloped colony, may have 
panicked the Soviets into arming their MPLA clients, whom they had backed for over a 
decade and who were now in danger of being eclipsed by the National Front.” 43 


43 


The CIA Report the President Doesn’t Want to Read,” 85. 



35 


To this questioning of the administration’s defense of the “modest” amount of money, 
Senator Clark added his own doubt. “The assumption that the United States is merely 
reacting to a Soviet initiative in Angola is itself at least open to question. According to 
reports, the 40 Committee authorized $300,000 in January 1975. This is a small amount, 
but it is difficult to be sure that the Soviets so perceived it before their more significant 
escalation in March.” 44 

Actually, that sum, as the Pike Committee indicated, was considerable in a poor Third 
World country such as Angola. Moreover, Holden Roberto, as we will see, was quick to 
spend it in a very public, noticeable way. The important point here is that both chambers 
of Congress questioned the administration’s argument that the Soviets had intervened 
first in support of the MPLA. Both were correct in their suspicions that the White 
House’s account of the American intervention was misleading. 

Also, there is credible evidence that the United States, via the CIA, was actively 
involved with the FNLA months before the January 1975 allocation of political funds. 
Former CIA agent John Stockwell, who headed the task force overseeing the American 
intervention in Angola (code name IAFEATURE), has written that on July 7, 1974 (my 
emphasis), the CIA began covert funding of Holden Roberto, without Forty Committee 
approval. The subsidy was in “small amounts at first, but enough for word to get around 

44 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 2. 



36 


that the CIA was dealing itself into the race .” 45 It should be noted that the CIA has never 
refuted the substance of Stockwell’s narrative of the American involvement in Angola. 

In fact, William Colby, the Director of Central Intelligence and the CIA during the 
Angolan crisis, has affirmed the account, calling it “substantially correct .” 46 

From the above discussion, we can at least come to two initial conclusions. First, 
contrary to the Ford Administration’s official account, the American intervention in 
Angola appears not to have been a simple case of the United States belatedly responding 
to Soviet-initiated aggression designed to forcefully impose Communism upon the 
unwilling majority of Angolans. Secondly, there is a distinct possibility that American 


45 Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 67. Although Stockwell contends that the CIA “began” covert funding 
of Holden Roberto in July 1974, there is substantial evidence that modest American support for him dated 
to at least 1962, and probably before. In 1969, however, Roberto’s American support was reportedly 
reduced to an annual stipend of $10,000 to pay for his “intelligence reporting” on Angolan activities. See 
Leslie Gelb, “U.S., Soviets, China Reported Aiding Portugal, Angola,” New York Times, September 23, 
1975, 22 and Seymour Hersh, “Early Angola Aid by U.S. Reported, “ New York Times, December 19, 

1975, 14. This early support is discussed further in succeeding chapters. Although Stockwell never tells us 
exactly how much more American funding the CIA provided to Holden Roberto in July 1974, we know 
from Gleijeses’ research that it amounted to $10,000 per month. “Mulcahy to SecState,” May 13, 1975, 
Policy Planning Staff, Box 368, National Archives, as cited in Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 281. By the 
time of the Forty Committee’s allocation of $300,000 in January 1975, then, Roberto would have received 
$60-$70,000 dollars from this increase. 

46 Albert B. Crenshaw, “Colby on Ex- Agent: ‘Wouldn’t Say He Made up Any of This,”’ Washington Post, 
May 15, 1978, sec. A, p. 1. Colby’s affirmation of the Stockwell account was only one of many other 
revelations about the American intervention in Angola that the former CIA director disclosed in interviews 
and in his own memoirs several years after he resigned, involuntarily, from the Agency in early November 
1975. See also Peter Pringle, “Colby: What CIA Did in Angola,” The Sunday Times (London), May 21, 
1978, 9. The information in both cited newspaper articles was based on an interview with William Colby 
on CBS Television’s “60 Minutes,” May 14, 1978, and John Stockwell, The Secret Wars, interview by 
Morley Safer, CBS Television “60 Minutes,” vol. X, no. 35, May 7 1978. See also William Colby and 
Peter Forbath, Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), 297-298, 311- 
317, 340-341. 



37 


actions actually provoked the Soviet Union into increasing its support for its long-time 
MPLA client, which in early 1975 was, literally, struggling to survive against escalating 
FNLA military attacks. 

If the United States was the first to intervene in the building Angolan storm, what then 
was the reason? As consistently claimed by Henry Kissinger and others, and reiterated 
by Senator Clark in his early 1976 hearings, the United States had no tangible strategic 
interests, economic or otherwise, in Angola. Here, the Revisionist perspective is most 
instructive. In attempting to more fully explain American Cold War policies, as I have 
previously discussed, some Revisionists have examined a psychological dimension of 
power - credibility - especially as it involves either a real or perceived decline in 
American power or dominance following the debacle in Southeast Asia. 

This issue was prominent in the Senate Africa Subcommittee’s early 1976 hearings on 
American policy in Angola. For example, in his opening comments, the subcommittee’s 
chairman, Senator Dick Clark, rhetorically asked what was at stake for the United States. 
Citing administration representatives, he noted that they “have repeatedly - and I believe 
accurately - assured us that the United States is not in Angola to protect either strategic, 
military, or economic interests.” The senator then added that these same officials most 
frequently argued that “our credibility” was at stake. A victory by the Soviet-backed 
MPLA “would prove that the United States does not have the will to defend the world 



38 

against Soviet aggression.” 47 More succinctly, as Kissinger himself expressed it to those 
who would criticize the American involvement in Angola as unnecessary and contrary to 
American interests on the continent, “You may be right in African terms, but I’m 
thinking globally.” 48 

Explaining American Intervention in Angola: Pericentrism 

It is reasonable to ask if there was a dynamic operating in the Angolan crisis that drew 
the United States into a conflict it neither desired nor anticipated. After all, it was Henry 
Kissinger who pointed out (if deceptively, as I will demonstrate) the significance of 
Zambia in the American decision to take some action in Angola. “Only on the rarest 
occasions does a single state visit change American national policy. Yet President 
Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia managed to accomplish precisely that feat when he came to 
Washington on April 19, 1975. On that occasion, he convinced President Ford and me 
that the Soviet Union was intervening in Angola with military advisers and weapons and 
that we should oppose this intrusion for the sake of Angola’s neighbors.” 49 

Moreover, the Pike Committee alluded, if somewhat vaguely, to the influence of 
African friends on the American decision. “Dr. Kissinger’s desire to reward and protect 
African leaders in the area,” might have been a “paramount factor” in the decision to 

47 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola , January 29, 1976, 2. 

48 As quoted in McCormick, America’s Half-Century , 189. 

49 Henry Kissinger, Years of Renewal (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), 792. 



39 


intervene.” 50 The Committee further noted that that the Forty Committee’s January 1975 
allocation of $300,000 to Holden Roberto and his FNLA came only after President 
Mobutu of Zaire had requested American assistance. 51 At this point, we need not be 
concerned if the Pike Committee’s findings somewhat contradict the Kissinger account of 
just which “African friend” was most influential in the American decision to intervene. 
The important question, to which I will devote much attention in Chapter 6, is, “Was 
Washington unduly influenced by one or more of its African friends, also including South 
Africa, and inadvertently “pulled” into the conflict?” 

Conclusion 

Angola’s story has an important role to play in the ongoing debate over how best to 
explain American foreign policy. As I explore the Angolan crisis in greater depth, a 
more accurate representation of foreign intervention, especially that of the United States, 
will emerge. My evidence-based account will call into question not only the 
administration’s official story, which still informs many recollections of the Angolan 
Civil War, such as Henry Kissinger and President Ford’s own memoirs, but also the 
assumptions and arguments upon which Traditionalism has rested its case. 

50 “The CIA Report the President Doesn’t Want to Read,” 85. 

51 Ibid. 

52 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, especially Chapter 26, “Civil War in Africa,” pp. 791-833; Gerald R. Ford, 
A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford (Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1979), pp. 345- 
346, 358-359. 



40 


Moreover, it will show that focusing the pericentric lens on the Angolan crisis does not 
adequately explain the American intervention. Zambia, Zaire and South Africa, 
especially the latter two, were all involved in the Angolan crisis on the side of the anti- 
MPLA coalition. As we will see, however, other factors related to the issue of American 
credibility were more important in President Ford’s decision to covertly support both the 
FNLA and UNITA. 



41 


CHAPTER 1 

AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY, AFRICA AND THE PORTUGUESE 
EMPIRE: THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA 


“ There is absolutely no change likely in the immediate attitude and 
determination of the Portuguese Government with respect to their 
African provinces. Without abandoning our principles looking toward 
government by the consent of the governed. ..I see no purpose to be 
gcdnecl by unnecessarily precipitating irritations in Portuguese-United 
States relations. ” 

U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, Admiral George W. Anderson 
In beginning to understand the rationale for the American involvement in Angola 
during the mid-1970s, we must first look to the long Cold War relationship between the 
United States and its NATO ally, Portugal. Well after the other European colonial 
powers had ceased direct rule of their colonies in Africa, Portugal refused to follow suit. 
Portuguese intransigence on the colonial question persisted, despite relentless and 
increasing international condemnation beginning in the late 1950s as more and more 
Third World nations gained their independence. 


53 In 1963, Admiral Anderson, the Chief of Naval Operations during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 
1962, became the American Ambassador to Portugal. The abbreviated quote above is taken from 
Enclosure 1 to Airgram, Lisbon A-328, 14 March 1966, 1-2; quoted in Michael A. Samuels and Stephen M. 
Haykin, “The Anderson Plan: An American Attempt to Seduce Portugal Out of Africa,” Orbis 22 (Fall 
1979): 667. Although issued in 1966, the Admiral’s statement wholly expresses the dilemma the United 
States encountered in its relationship with the Portuguese empire, especially from the Kennedy 
Administration onward. At the time this article was published, Samuels was Executive Director for Third 
World Studies at Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic and International Studies and from 1975- 
1977 had served as American Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone. Haykin was an Economic 
Research Assistant at the International Food Policy Research Institute and a candidate for the Joint Master 
of Science in Foreign Service-Master of Arts in Economics, at Georgetown University. 



42 


This chapter, which is based primarily on secondary sources, first addresses the broad 
evolution of American’s African policy in the Cold War. It provides the historical 
context for Washington’s attitudes and actions toward African affairs up to the mid- 
1970s, when the United States intervened in the Angolan crisis. It also unravels the 
dilemma that European colonialism and neocolonialism presented to American efforts to 
find a middle road between the oft-stated commitment to idealistic values, such as self- 
determination and human rights, and Cold War realism. 

The United States, in fact, most often resolved the predicament in favor of continued 
support for European policies. In doing so, Washington subordinated nationalist 
aspirations in sub-Saharan Africa to what it believed were two more important and 
closely connected goals: maintaining stability, either through colonialism or 
neocolonialism, mostly to ensure continued access to Africa’s mineral wealth, and 
preventing Communist influence in the region. In regard to the latter objective, the 
history of American relations with sub-Saharan African during the Cold War shows that 
African nationalism was most often held hostage to super-power competition, with the 
East-West struggle trumping the North-South dimensions of global politics. Within this 
environment, American policy makers, with one notable exception - President Kennedy - 
were prone to mistakenly equate nationalism with Communism. 



43 


Following this overview, I will focus on the specific case of Portugal. Lisbon 
steadfastly refused to end its “civilizing mission” in Africa, and it held an ace up its 
sleeve that complicated American efforts to move it toward decolonization. Portugal’s 
leverage derived, in large part, from the American desire for continued access to the 
military facilities at Lajes in the Azores. Lisbon was quick to employ the Azores lease 
issue to silence, or at least muffle, criticisms of its colonial policies. This strategy made 
it difficult for successive American presidents to substantially shift American policy to a 
position of anti-Portuguese colonialism, even if they had so desired. 

Only one Cold War president, John F. Kennedy, risked endangering American use of 
the Azores by supporting self-determination for Lisbon’s overseas territories. Despite the 
best efforts of Kennedy-era diplomats, which continued briefly into the Johnson 
Administration, Portugal’s colonial policy essentially remained unchanged until a small 
group of mostly junior officers, known as the Armed Forces Movement, successfully 
overthrew the Lisbon regime in April 1974. These young officers, many of them 
seasoned colonial soldiers, were motivated in large part by their first-hand knowledge of 
the futile destructiveness of their nation’s imperial policies. 

A General Perspective on the United States and Africa 

Africa has seldom been a major focus or concern of American foreign policy decision 
makers, although important American strategic interests in the continent, particularly in 



44 


the mineral wealth of central and southern Africa, date back to at least World War II. 
During that period, as the United States began research and development of the atomic 
bomb, it depended heavily on uranium supplied by the Belgian firm, Union Miniere, from 
its mines in the former Belgian Congo. 54 This commercial arrangement grew in 
importance after the Soviet Union exploded its first A-bomb in the fall of 1949, which 
prompted President Truman’s January 1950 decision to proceed with American 
development of the hydrogen fusion bomb. The outbreak of hostilities on the Korean 
Peninsula in June 1950 and the adoption of the recommendations of National Security 
Council Study 68 (NSC-68) in September 1950, which called for an across-the-board 
buildup in U.S. military forces, further increased the American uranium requirement for 
the projected growth in its nuclear arsenal. 

American concerns over continued unfettered access to uranium in the Belgian Congo 
led to a joint American-Belgian mission to the colony in the early 1950s. Its purpose was 
to investigate and assess the security of the uranium mines and to develop contingency 
plans for their protection in the event of threats of disruption by hostile forces. Such 
forces were presumed to be the indigenous peoples then working the mines for the 


54 The Belgian Congo gained its independence on 1 July 1960 and initially became known as the Congo 
(Leopoldville) to distinguish it from the former French Congo (Brazzaville). After the name-change of the 
capital city, Leopoldville, to Kinshasa, the country was called Congo (Kinshasa). Dining the years of the 
Mobutu regime, the Congo (Kinshasa) became Zaire, and has since again changed its name, this time to the 
Democratic Republic of the Congo. 



45 


Belgian firm. As recounted by British Political Scientist George Wright, upon conclusion 
of the mission, George Marshall, then Secretary of Defense, sent a memorandum to 
Secretary of State Dean Acheson, explaining that the continued flow of uranium to the 
United States could be in danger “if ‘a large-scale uprising of the natives in the area or 
considerable disaffection of the natives employed in the mines’ were to occur. The US 
awareness prompted the administration to send $7 million in military equipment to 
‘bolster Belgian authority.’ The CIA also established a ‘controlled source’ in the colony 
‘to provide early warning of any problem’, and initiated a plan [to prepare] for covert 
countersabotage’ ,” 55 

These early American connections to Africa were very narrow. They centered on 
Union Miniere and its role in the continued supply of uranium for American nuclear 
research and development and on further expanding the growing commercial ties with 
South Africa, including increasing imports of South African uranium. Washington gave 
little or no consideration to the majority black Africans or their aspirations for 
independence from the European colonial powers. 

Africa’s importance, then, derived solely from its role as a repository of critical 
minerals - copper and chrome in addition to uranium - and unfettered American access to 

55 Thomas Borstelmann, “Apartheid, Colonialism and the Cold War: The United States and Southern 
Africa, 1945-1952” (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1990), 478-481; cited in Wright, The Destruction of a 
Nation, 19. 



46 


this strategic wealth. As such, the goal of American policy during the colonial period 
was the maintenance of stability through preservation of the status quo. Even later, after 
the major wave of decolonization began in the mid-to-late 1950s, this objective persisted. 
Although the status quo shifted from colonialism to neo-colonialism, Washington found 
this wholly acceptable because it still contributed to stability. The desire for stability, as 
noted by historian Kenneth Mokoena, caused American decision makers to be “intent 
upon encouraging moderate forces in southern Africa and profoundly suspicious of, or 
even hostile to, radical change.” 56 

The American quest for the holy grail of stability intersected with what are, 
chronologically, two relatively distinct phases of development in 20 th century sub- 
Saharan Africa: the colonial era, which began to unravel in the mid-1950s and resulted in 
the independence of most African nations by the early 1960s; the period following 
decolonization during which the former imperial powers of Belgium, France and Great 
Britain constructed a neo-colonial architecture allowing them continued influence, 
especially of an economic nature, in the ex-colonies. During both phases, Portugal, 
whose colonialism dated back to the 15 th century, resisted pressures to grant 


56 Kenneth Mokoena, ed.. South Africa and the United States: The Declassified History (NY: The New 
Press, 1993), xi. Mokoena’s book is a compilation of primary American documents obtained by the 
National Security Archive through the Freedom of Information Act. 



47 


independence to its overseas territories until the makers of the April 1974 Portuguese 

C7 

coup decided to end, at long last, the nation’s civilizing mission. 

During this nearly thirty-year period in the aftermath of the Second World War, there 
was only one exception to American support for Portuguese colonialism. This occurred 
during the Kennedy Administration when, as will be discussed later, Washington tried, if 
unsuccessfully, to move Lisbon in the direction of granting self-determination for its 
colonies. Kennedy officials who remained in the Johnson Administration continued these 
efforts for several years. By then, however, continued Portuguese intransigence and 
other issues, especially the growing war in Southeast Asia, consumed Washington’s 
energy and attention. 

This trend continued into the Nixon Administration as the continuing conflict in 
Southeast Asia, Soviet- American detente, and American-Chinese relationships dominated 
the American foreign policy agenda. Washington’s policy swung back to unconditional 
support for Lisbon, its NATO partner. President Nixon, never one to mince words, made 
the American attitude toward Portugal’s colonialism very clear in April 1969 when he 


57 The Republic of South Africa, which departed the British-led Commonwealth in 1961 following a 
minority white plebiscite, continued to illegally occupy Namibia (formerly Southwest Africa) and colonize 
that erstwhile German colony until the late 1980s while also practicing a form of internal colonization with 
its Bantustan homelands policy. Rhodesia declared its independence from Great Britain in 1965 (the so- 
called Unilateral Declaration of Independence, or UDI) and minority white rule continued there until 1980. 


48 


told the visiting Portuguese Foreign Minister, Franco Nogueira, “Just remember, I’ll 

co 

never do to you what Kennedy did.” 

The United States, Colonialism, and Communism: An Overview 

During the preeminent years of the colonial era following World War II, which 
bracketed the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations, American decision makers 
disguised their trepidations over the potential for instability and revolutionary change in 
colonial Africa by cloaking them in the idea of “premature independence.” Premature 
independence served as a metaphor for a plethora of American fears about the increasing 
international demands for black African liberation and the potential for Communist 
penetration of the Third World - two different dynamics which the United States 
conveniently conflated for policy purposes. 

American antipathy toward premature independence helps explain the generally 
unwavering support for the policies of the colonial powers in Africa, even while the 
United States ostensibly supported the Charter of the United Nations, which called upon 
all signatories to promote global self-determination, human rights and egalitarianism . 59 
In attempting to find a middle road, or balance, between support for colonial maintenance 

58 Nixon made this statement at a ceremony on April 10, 1969, marking NATO’s twentieth anniversary. 
Richard D. Mahoney, JFK: Ordeal in Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 243. 

59 Following World War II, Washington’s priority was the rebuilding of Western Europe and the 
establishment of a trans-Atlantic security bloc. In addition to the concerns about the possible effects of 
“premature independence,” the United States also deferred to European colonialism to attain support for 
NATO, and in the case of France, for the rearming of West Germany within the Atlantic Alliance. 



49 


of the status quo on the one hand, and at least a rhetorical commitment to idealistic values 
on the other, the United States almost always opted for the first since the alternative to 
white minority rule appeared worse - instability and a vacuum for Communist 
infiltration. 

The notion of premature independence, the perceived dangers it presented to stability, 
and the resultant American deferral to European colonial policies were evident in 
American foreign policy no later than 1950. According to Gabriel Kolko, then Assistant 
Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs, George McGhee, 
used the term to signify American support for the colonial powers’ resolve and intentions 
to hold onto their African empires. “The metropolitan powers need reassurance from the 
United States that we are not purposefully working to bring about a premature according 
of political independence to the peoples of Africa.” 60 

Thomas Noer adds that McGhee, in elaborating upon the American stance against 
premature independence, labeled “Africa ‘a fertile field for communism. . . ’ warning 
against ‘premature independence for primitive, underdeveloped peoples.’ McGhee 


60 Gabriel Kolko, Confronting the Third World: United States Foreign Policy, 1945-1980 (New York: 
Pantheon Books, 1988), 12. 



50 


argued that black governments would be ‘unprepared to meet aggression or subversion’ 
and would thus be a threat to ‘the security of the free world.’” 61 

Once decolonization became inevitable, during the Eisenhower Administration, and as 
independent nations quickly emerged in central and southern Africa, American 
opposition to premature independence as a justification for continued imperialism 
became somewhat of an anachronism. By 1960, a year when seventeen new African 
nations entered the United Nations, the profoundly changed situation in Africa brought a 
new dynamic to the world stage - a North-South dialogue in which the newly liberated 
nations raised their collective voice in support for the independence of the world’s 
remaining colonized peoples. This new dimension of global politics was manifested in 
increased condemnations of colonialism in the UN and other international arenas. It also 
brought forth numerous proposals and resolutions, many initiated and designed by the 
newly independent African nations and their Third World sympathizers, to diplomatically 
and economically isolate the remaining minority white regimes. The Communist bloc 
usually supported these actions, while the United States and the colonial powers of 
Western Europe most often opposed them. 

The altered environment of the late 1950s presented the United States with not only an 

opportunity to steer a new course in its policy toward southern Africa, but also a 

61 Thomas J. Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation : The United States and White Rule in Africa, 1 948-1 968 
(Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1985), 30. 



51 


challenge to its long-standing support for the white regimes. The opportunity - the road 
not taken in this case, with the exception of the Kennedy years -essentially involved 
encouragement and support for the development of the new nations along lines that made 
sense within the context of African realities, as well as a sincere and demonstrable 
commitment to seeking an end to the colonial system in Portuguese Africa and minority 
rule elsewhere in southern Africa. 

The challenge, reflecting Cold War American foreign policy priorities, remained one 
of ensuring stability and minimizing Communist influence on the African continent so 
that Western European neo-colonialism and white rule could function in an environment 
designed to perpetuate their longevity. Related to this prime directive, as southern 
Africa’s liberation movements developed and gained momentum, threatening to 
destabilize white dominion, the United States sought to discredit most of them either as 
terrorists or Communists (and usually both). Especially during the Kennedy 
Administration, Holden Roberto of the FNLA (Angola) and Eduardo Mondlane, the 
leader of FRELIMO (Mozambique) until his assassination in 1969, were the exceptions 
to this general hostility toward the liberation movements. 62 

62 The American government’s brief support to Holden Roberto of the National Front for the Liberation of 
Angola (FNLA), starting at least as early as 1961, during the Kennedy Administration, and continuing at 
modest levels until 1969, as well as its support for Eduardo Mondlane of the Front for the Liberation of 
Mozambique (FRELIMO), were designed to gain American influence with the nationalists and ensure that 
the United States would have a pro-Western ally in a strong position when, and if, Portugal decided, or was 



52 


As will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter, the Eisenhower Administration 
failed to take advantage of the new opportunity presented by decolonization. As a result, 
the United States paid a heavy price for its continued support of southern Africa’s white 
minority regimes, Portuguese colonialism, and French and English neo-colonialism. That 
cost included a loss of respect by many black African leaders (and future leaders) who 
labeled the United States as “timid hypocrites ,” 63 the subversion of American ideals and 
commitment to human rights, and a counter-productive strategy for achieving the 
principal goal of the Cold War - containing and isolating the Soviet Union . 64 The latter 


forced, to give up its colonial empire. In the case of Angola, American support for Roberto was also aimed 
at offsetting the modest support the Soviet Union was providing to the MPLA. Mondlane had studied and 
taught in the United States. He had impressed many of those individuals, such as Chester Bowles, who 
would become the staunch supporters of African nationalism in the Kennedy Administration, as well as the 
president’s brother, Robert Kennedy. As noted by Thomas Noer, like Holden Roberto, Mondlane, 
“impressed Americans with his anticommunism. Until his assassination in 1969, he kept FRELIMO 
‘acceptable’ to U.S. officials.” Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 68. According to Thomas 
Borstelmann, since South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) had links to the South African 
Communist Party, it “qualified as an organization of unacceptable revolutionaries.” Thomas Borstelmann, 
The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge, MA: 
Harvard University Press, 2001), 156-157. 

63 Chester Bowles, Africa ’s Challenge to America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957), 101 . 

64 The Soviet Union became increasingly active on the African continent in the early 1960s, following the 
collapse of an earlier diplomatic offensive in the Third World, which commenced in the mid-1950s during 
the early Khrushchev years. This second diplomatic offensive proved more successful that the first for a 
variety of reasons. First, by the early 1960s much of sub-Saharan Africa had been decolonized, which 
opened the door for the establishment of official diplomatic relations. Secondly, the Sino-Soviet split and 
China’s own increased activities on the continent ensured that Moscow would involve itself in Africa rather 
than cede the region to the Chinese revisionists. Thirdly, the establishment of the Organization for African 
Unity in 1963, including its Liberation Committee in Dar-es-Salaam, provided an internationally acceptable 
method for supporting southern Africa’s liberation movements against the remaining bastions of white 
power. 



53 


made hay while the sun shined, so to speak, through its consistent support, in words and 
actions, for the struggle of the African liberation movements against the while rulers. 

Another, and distinct, phase of American policy toward Africa, and southern Africa 
specifically, began during the Kennedy Administration as the new president faced the 
opportunities and challenges of the changed international environment. During the 
Kennedy and very early Johnson White House years, the previous American concerns 
over “premature independence” gave way to a concerted support for self-determination in 
the Portuguese colonies. 

Chester Bowles, who briefly served as one of President Kennedy’s Under Secretaries 
of State, provided an early outline for this new direction in American policy. In 1956, the 
former ambassador to India delivered a series of lectures at the University of California in 
which he severely criticized the militarization of American foreign policy. Ambassador 
Bowles advocated a return to America’s traditional belief in the rights of self- 
determination and self-government and an increased sensitivity toward African 
nationalism. Countering the idea that concessions to African nationalism endangered 
Western access to strategic raw materials and opened the door to Communist penetration, 
the ambassador argued that policy based on such assumptions only “made a bad situation 
worse. . .Our fascination with the activities of our adversary has served again to twist our 



54 


perspective, blind us to the real nature of forces which are at work, and, most harmful of 
all, maneuver us into appearing to support the hated and doomed status quo.” 65 

A year later, in July of 1957, then Senator John F. Kennedy, who in 1959 would 
become chairman of the newly established Subcommittee on Africa, began attacking the 
Eisenhower Administration’s support for the French in Algeria. The future president, 
sounding much like Chester Bowles’ had a year earlier, emphasized that “The sweep of 
nationalism is the most potent factor in foreign affairs today. We can resist it or ignore it 
but only for a little while; we can see it exploited by the Soviets with grave 
consequences; or we in this country can give it hope and leadership, and thus improve 
immeasurably our standing and our security.” 66 He would carry this perspective into the 
White House. 

While Bowles and others, such a G. Mennen Williams and Adlai Stevenson, all 
members of Kennedy’s Administration, were more idealistic in their approach to Africa, 
emphasizing a moral commitment to self-determination, which they believed reflected 
historic American ideals, Kennedy’s perspective was pragmatic and “fatalistic.” As 


65 Bowles, Africa 's Challenge to America, 56-57. Bowles further argued that a break with the colonial 
powers and South Africa was the most effective way to limit Communism’s influence and to convince 
African nationalists of America’s commitment to black African sovereignty. Ibid., passim. 

66 Cited in Mahoney, JFK: Ordeal in Africa, 22. 



55 


explained by historian Richard Mahoney, to him, “decolonization was an inevitable 
process in which the U.S. had no choice but to participate .” 67 

However, as president, there were some in Kennedy’s inner foreign policy circle who 
opposed a demonstrable American support for Portuguese decolonization, especially 
when it risked alienating Lisbon, rupturing the NATO alliance, and jeopardizing 
American access to the Azores . 68 This inner circle was made up of those officials 
primarily concerned with Western Europe and NATO. It included some of the most 
powerful voices in diplomatic matters, including Secretary of State Dean Rusk and 
unofficial presidential advisor. Dean Acheson. 

Despite the predictable tensions resulting from the differences of opinion, the 
Africanists and Europeanists in the Kennedy Administration reached an accommodation 


67 Ibid., 24. 

68 Portugal’s inclusion as a member of the original twelve-nation North Atlantic Treaty, signed on April 4, 
1949, was mainly due to its control of the Azores, which had proven valuable as a refueling base during 
World War II. As noted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in July 1963, “The importance of Portugal lies 
primarily in the importance of US base rights in the Azores, and secondarily in the membership of Portugal 
in NATO.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, US Policy Toward 
Portugal and Republic of South Africa, JCSM-528-63 (10 July 1963), p. 1 [database on-line]; available 
from Digital National Security Archive (South Africa Collection). The Joint Chiefs of Staff, who never 
saw a base they didn’t like, consistently argued for the retention of the Azores military facilities, even as 
Portugal used its control of the islands as leverage to gain at least tacit American support for its colonial 
policies. In the Memorandum noted above, while negotiations to renew the American lease, which had 
expired at the end of 1962, were ongoing, the JCS argued that criticism of Portugal’s African policies were 
negatively affecting efforts to “revitalize” NATO, including the renewal of the lease agreement. “The 
divisive effect on NATO of further censure of Portugal cannot be dismissed. At a time when the Alliance 
is already strained, the withdrawal of Portugal as a result of affronts by her Allies could dangerously 
weaken our efforts to revitalize NATO.” The military leaders further noted “The peacetime contribution 
of the Republic of South Africa to US security is considerably less important than that of Portugal.” Ibid., 

2 . 



56 


on the colonial conundrum: self-determination came to signify measured decolonization. 
This meant that Portugal, nudged along by American encouragement, would steadily, 
over the course of some specified time frame, implement the reforms needed to improve 
the economic, social and political positions of the black majorities in its African colonies. 
Washington hoped that this gradual reform process would eventually result in a plebiscite 
in which the local inhabitants, both white and black, would vote on their future 
relationship with the metropole. 

This concept of self-determination, then, left the door open for a continued close 
association between Lisbon and the colonies . 69 Even if the vote resulted in 
independence, the projected transition time frame, expected to be lengthy, would allow 
the Portuguese to construct a system of interdependence between the colonies and the 

70 

metropole, facilitating the continued influence of the latter in its former territories. 


69 President Kennedy, reflecting the thinking of many of his European and some of his African advisers, 
expressed these sentiments in an October 1962 meeting with the Portuguese Foreign Minister, Franco 
Nogueira, the purpose of which was to discuss the impending re-negotiations of the American Azores base 
agreement, which was set to expire on 31 December 1962. As recounted by George Wright, the president 
enquired if Portugal would consider publicly accepting the principle of self-determination for its colonies. 
Nogueira responded by noting, “if Portugal made that statement, the African and Asian countries at the UN 
‘would call for independence in Angola and Mozambique and by the end of the year the African continent 
would become communist.”’ The foreign minister obviously knew what Cold War Kennedy buttons to 
press. The president then “stressed that if Portugal supported self determination, it would not mean 
Portugal had to agree to automatic independence.” Wright, The Destruction of a Nation , 43. 

70 Kennedy’s Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, G. Mennen Williams, who also served in that 
capacity until 1966 during the Johnson Administration, discussed the American version of “gradual” 
decolonization and self-determination in his post-Kennedy-era book, Africa for the Africans. He argued 
that the Portuguese refusal to grant self-determination in its colonies increased the danger of both a violent 
solution to the issue and the chances for Communist exploitation. These consequences of Portuguese 



57 

Kennedy’s belief that nationalism in the Third World represented the most powerful 
dynamic of the 20 th century led him to oppose and challenge European colonialism and 
neo-colonialism, as will be discussed later in this chapter. The president also intended for 
that United States, not Western Europe, to play the leading role in Africa. This meant, as 
diplomatic historian David Gibbs has pointed out, that while the United States “never 
attempted completely to cut the neo-colonial ties between Europe and Africa,” it sought 

V 1 

to weaken them. 

Despite the clear break with the policy of his predecessor, Eisenhower, the 
predominant East-West dimension of Cold War politics soon made itself felt. During the 
last year of his administration, with the Azores lease quickly approaching its expiration 
date, Kennedy moderated his position towards Portugal. There were, as Gibbs points out, 
recognized limits to Kennedy’s challenge to the West European allies. “When the policy 


inaction would, at the same time, decrease the possibility for their continued influence in the colonies, 
which would invariably, one way or another, gain their independence. Advocating a timetable to prepare 
the territorial people for self-determination. Governor Williams then noted that self-determination “does 
not necessarily mean that independence would be the end result of such a program... We exclude no option. 
The people should be given the right to choose between alternatives - to continue present ties with 
Portugal, to join a Portuguese commonwealth, or to strike out completely independently... If the Portuguese 
government grants self-determination and encourages and intensively prepares the indigenous people to 
decide their future, the long-term prospects for the maintenance of a Portuguese presence in Africa - with 
or without political ties - will be greatly enhanced. The present impasse. . .can only produce even greater 
antagonisms detrimental to long-term Portuguese interests.” G. Mennen Williams, Africa for the Africans 
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1969), 132-133. 

71 David N. Gibbs, “Political Parties and International Relations: The United States and the Decolonization 
of Sub-Saharan Africa,” The International History Review XVII, no. 2 (Mary 1995): 325. Gibbs’ study 
emphasizes the economic factors involved in the evolution of American support, or in the case of Kennedy, 
non-support, for European colonialism, especially the growing conflicts between American commercial 
interests and those of the French and the Belgians, the latter in the Congo (Zaire). 



58 


threatened the Atlantic Alliance, which the United States was not willing to sacrifice for 
anything in Africa, US Africa policy gradually softened. In late 1962, the US delegation 
at the United Nations voted against economic sanctions against Portugal, and even 
Mennen Williams conceded that ‘the United States should supplement rather than 

72 

supplant the former metropole[s]’ in Africa.” 

President Johnson retained many of Kennedy’s principle advisors on African policy, 
most notably G. Mennen Williams and Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations, for several 
years after Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963. Still, the new president’s foreign 
policy interests lay elsewhere, especially with the increasing American military 
commitment in South Vietnam. With the exception of his personal attention to the 
renewed instability in the Congo (Leopoldville) in 1964 to 1965, African affairs became 
the sole domain of the bureaucrats at the State Department. Although the pro- 
nationalism, anti-colonialism tenor of the Kennedy era continued, albeit in a subdued 
manner, until 1966, the president’s disinterest sapped the energy and vitality associated 
with the Kennedy era “new” direction in African policy. At the same time, the 
Europeanists in the administration regained the upper hand in the bureaucratic wars over 
Portugal and its continued colonialism. In the changed environment, American policy 
toward sub-Saharan Africa languished. 


72 


Ibid. 



59 


The Nixon Administration reverted official American policy toward the region (such 
as it was) to solid support for Portugal and the minority white regimes in Rhodesia and 
South Africa. The “tilt” toward the white regimes, as it became known, was set in 
motion early in the new administration. In April 1969, the newly inaugurated president 
and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, tasked the National Security Council 
with a review of Washington’s policy toward the region, directing the Council’s 
interdepartmental study group to develop options to what had become, by then, a 
directionless policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. 

President Nixon approved Option Two of the group’s Study in Response to National 
Security Study Memorandum 39: Southern Africa (NSSM 39). That option advocated a 
revitalized dialogue between the United States and southern Africa’s white regimes and 
increased aid to moderate black states in the area. The authors of the policy incorrectly 
assumed, among other things, that white minority rule in southern Africa was “here to 
stay,” and that subtle American pressure and encouragement could move the while rulers 
to effect gradual reforms leading to improvements in the black majority’s economic, and 
within limits, political status. The Nixon Administration tried to keep Option 2 a secret. 
However its impact, as will be further discussed, quickly became visible. 

73 Although most of southern Africa was independent by 1968, the Nixon Administration, in effect, 
reverted to Eisenhower’s policy of support for white minority rule. While advocating gradual, non-violent 
change in South Africa and Rhodesia, for example, the administration’s overriding concern was the 



60 


President Ford continued the Option Two policy of his predecessor, despite the 
changes that occurred in sub-Saharan Africa after Lisbon decided to grant its African 
colonies independence following the April 1974 coup in Portugal. As will be further 
discussed in Chapter 2, the State Department reviewed the policy several times following 
the coup and the Portuguese announcement of its intention to grant independence to its 
African colonies. However, the department’s African experts concluded that the policy 
had served American interests well and recommended no changes. Option Two 
essentially remained in effect until the spring of 1976 when Henry Kissinger, on his first 
trip to southern Africa, announced a new course in American policy. 74 


preservation of stability and the status quo and denial of Communist, especially Soviet, influence. The end 
result, or at least the hoped for result, would be black Africa’s acceptance of evolutionary reforms. This 
was an overly optimistic expectation given the nationalists’ persistent opposition to continued white rule, 
even if in a slightly more economically and socially equitable society. In the case of Rhodesia after its 
Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, Washington generally deferred to London’s policies in its 
former colony. However, Dining the Nixon Administration, the United States did break with the British 
(and United Nations) position on Rhodesia when it disregarded international sanctions against the 
importation of Rhodesian chrome. The sanction-busting Byrd Amendment represented one of the most 
highly visible manifestations of support for the Salisbury government. Sean Gervasi, an authority on 
decolonization and neo-colonialism in Africa, argues that the hidden assumption of the American objective 
in promoting evolutionary change in white-controlled areas “is that power is to remain in the hands of the 
white minority. Improvements are to be sought; but they are to take place within the system. The real 
aim. . .is to make the system as liberal and humane as possible; but precisely to preserve it.” Sean Gervasi, 
“The Politics of ‘Accelerated Economic Growth,”’ in Change in Contemporary South Africa , eds., Leonard 
Thompson and Jeffrey Butler (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 368. 

74 With American prestige in Africa at an all-time low following the failure of Washington’s policy in 
Angola, in April 1976, Henry Kissinger, encouraged by President Ford, visited the region. During his trip, 
he took the opportunity to announce a new direction for American policy. In Lusaka, Zambia, on April 27, 
he committed the United States to “unrelenting opposition” to the white regime in Rhodesia (which he 
purposely referred to as Zimbabwe at one point), while also pledging American support to “self- 
determination, majority rule, equal rights, and human dignity for all the peoples of southern Africa.” 




61 


This brief overview of how the United States dealt with the question of European 
colonialism and neo-colonialism and Communism in Africa in the aftermath of World 
War II shows that Washington mostly sided with continued white minority rule as a way 
to maintain stability and limit Communist penetration. The brief years of the Kennedy 
Administration, somewhat extending into the early years of the Johnson Administration, 
are the only exception to this historical fact. The following discussion details the 
circumstances of that support and the abbreviated change in course during the early to 
mid-1960s. 

The Fits and Starts of America’s Africa Policy: The Truman Years 

The Truman Administration’s post-World War II policy toward Africa can be summed 

up in two words - passive neglect. African nationalists’ calls for decolonization and 

independence had begun early in the colonial era of course. In the aftermath of the 

Second World War, however, their renewed efforts to bring about decolonization, 

inspired in part by the Charter of the United Nations, which called for the promotion of 

self-determination and fundamental human rights and freedoms for all people, went 

largely unheard. More momentous international events relegated black African voices to 

the dim wings of the global stage. Moreover, the era of Western European 

decolonization was nearly ten years in the future and not foreseen at the time by either the 

Historic Documents of 1976, “Kissinger on Africa,” April 27, 1976 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional 
Quarterly Inc., 1977): 287. 



62 


colonizers or the United States. Further, the Soviet Union had yet to fashion its own 
strategies for the Third World and was not pro-actively engaged in Africa. 

During the Truman White House years, when “premature independence” first became 
the justification for continued colonization and white minority rule, the central and 
southern regions of the continent were rendered important for only one reason. 
Washington looked to them as a warehouse for materiel deemed critical to the well being 
of the American and West European economies and to its Cold War strategies. The 
broad sweep of African history was generally misunderstood, or not understood at all. 

The widespread, racially loaded perceptions of Africa as “dark”, both within the 
American government and among the American people, perpetuated the ignorance and 
myths surrounding the continent. 

Even as the United States increasingly assumed the role as the leader of the Western 
world, and its international commitments and responsibilities grew accordingly, 

American interests in, and hence policy toward, Africa remained consistently secondary 
or even tertiary concerns within the larger global arena. In so far as Washington ever 
considered Africa outside the question of its mineral wealth, it was most often within a 

75 1 am probably being overly optimistic about Africa’s place in the priorities of American foreign policy 
after World War II. As noted by historian Thomas Borstelmann in discussing the Johnson Administration’s 
minimal attention toward Africa in the face of crises in the Dominican Republic, Berlin, and Vietnam, for 
example, “Africa remained - as it had been for all his predecessors - the lowest priority in, literally, the 
world.” Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, 175. 



63 


Euro-centric context in which Western Europe’s post-war reconstruction and the 
cementing of its relationship to the United States through a trans-Atlantic alliance system 
assumed primary importance. Thus, the United States would support, even abet, the 
continuation of Western European imperialism in the aftermath of World War II - as the 
American support for the French in amply Indochina demonstrated - in order to secure 
Western European acceptance of the Marshall Plan, the Containment Policy, and the 
North Atlantic Treaty Organization, among other American initiatives. 

David Gibbs, in reflecting on the Truman Administration’s shift away from the anti- 
colonialism of the previous Roosevelt Administration, notes that anti-colonialism did not 
disappear entirely. However, “For the most part. . .the Truman state department tended to 
tolerate colonialism in Africa to the point, in some instances, of open support.” He 
argues, as I have, that this support occurred “because Truman needed a military and 
political alliance with Europe to support the United States in its confrontation with the 
Soviet Union.. European economies, which the United States wished to rebuild, in turn, 
needed the support of their colonies, whose exports of raw materials earned them 
dollars .” 76 


76 Gibbs, “Political Parties and International Relations,” 312-313. The United States also provided direct 
financial assistance to Western European colonialism throughout Africa during the Truman Administration. 
The author writes, “By early 1951, over $400 million in Marshall Plan aid had been spent by the British, 
French, Belgian, and Portuguese empires in Africa, in addition to foreign aid under the Point Four 
programme.” Ibid., 313. 



64 


In economic and geo-political terms, this meant, as George Wright argues, that the 
United States subordinated its goal of achieving an open-door policy to Western Europe’s 
colonies to the more important objectives of rebuilding Western European economies and 
isolating and containing the Soviet Union through the establishment of an American-led 
Western Alliance. Moreover, as long as Western Europe dominated its colonies, 
continued American access to strategic resources was essentially guaranteed. As 
assessed by historian Gabriel Kolko, “...what the United States wanted and needed most 
in Africa - raw materials - it freely got. . .It was tension and unrest alone that threatened 

78 

supplies, and this only reinforced its commitment to its allies’ hegemony.” 

The Fits and Starts of America’s African Policy: The Eisenhower Years 

The Eisenhower Administration essentially continued Truman’s policy of 
“disinterested neglect” toward Africa, but moved toward even more overt support for 
European colonialism. The new president’s foreign policy officials refrained from 
criticizing either South Africa or Portugal, while warning against the perils of “premature 
independence.” However, the beginning of decolonization in the latter half of the decade 
briefly increased the attention toward the continent. Although most officials in the 


77 Wright, The Destruction of a Nation, 23. 

7S Gabriel Kolko, Confronting the Third World, 113. Kolko argues that continued access to Africa’s 
strategic minerals, and not Communism, was the primary motivation for the historical American support of 
European colonialism. Washington’s fear was “that the removal of European hegemony would lead to 
local and tribal conflicts... depriving the West of Africa’s great economic and strategic resources.” Ibid. 



65 


Eisenhower Administration viewed the advent of independence for much of Africa with 
some alarm, as Thomas Noer observes, “it was clear that colonialism in Africa was 
dying. Faced with the prospect of a sizable number of new nations in the immediate 
future, Washington accepted the inevitable.” Still, accepting the inevitable and 
becoming more interested in Africa, as David Gibbs tells us, was the American response 

on 

to decolonization and not a signal of a newly found support for it. 

In addition to accepting the inevitability of decolonization, Elizabeth Cobbs explains 
that the most salient reason for the shift in the Eisenhower Administration’s approach 
was the French-British attempt, along with Israel, to regain control of the Suez Canal. 
“President Eisenhower furiously demanded that they withdraw lest Nasser seek military 
support from the Soviets. U.S. officials threatened to cut off Britain’s oil supply and ruin 
its currency if it refused.” The crisis scarred the Western Alliance, signaled the end of 
the British Empire, and “also hurt the French war effort in Algeria, where Nasser was 
supplying the revolutionaries .” 81 


79 Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation , 49. 

80 Gibbs, “Political Parties and International Relations,” 314. 

81 Elizabeth A. Cobbs, “Decolonization, the Cold War, and the Foreign Policy of the Peace Corps” 
Diplomatic History 20, no. 1 (Winter 1996), 98. Thomas Noer also argues that the Suez crisis was a key 
event in Washington’s decision to distance itself from the colonial powers. He adds to the list of reasons 
the growing civil rights movement in the United States and Nixon’s belief, after his 1957 visit to Africa, 
that American segregationist policies played into the hands of Communist propagandists and Nixon’s own 
presidential ambitions. Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 48-49. Noer explains the importance of 
then Vice President Nixon in the new approach to African issues. Nixon, having attended Ghana’s 
independence ceremonies in March 1957, returned to the United States convinced that the United States 



66 


There were some substantive results from the changed position of the administration. 
After Vice President Nixon attended Ghana’s Independence Day celebration and toured 
eleven other African nations in 1957, he recommended an increase in American aid to 
Africa. From 1957-1958, this happened as U.S. aid rose from $36 million to $93 
million. In 1958, the Eisenhower Administration established the Bureau of African 
Affairs within the State Department, despite some congressional and State Department 
opposition. In the United Nations, the United States broke with precedence and began 
supporting resolutions critical of South Africa or those nations whose continued colonial 
policies violated the UN charter’s commitment to self-determination 

These actions did not represent a major departure from the earlier approach to Africa. 
The Bureau of African Affairs (AF) was staffed with Europeanists who were disgruntled 
at what they saw as a demotion. They undermined the new bureau’s mission by 
continuing to use the former colonial powers as the diplomatic and economic 
intermediaries between Washington and the newly independent states. Their actions, of 


should support decolonization both materially, through economic assistance, and morally. He expressed 
these sentiments in his trip report to the President, calling for a series of changes in American policy toward 
Africa, especially efforts to counter the African viewpoint that American foreign policy reflected its racist 
domestic policies. Ibid., 49. 

82 Cobbs, “Decolonization, the Cold War, and the Foreign Policy of the Peace Corps,” 98-99. 

83 Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 49. Gibbs also discusses Washington’s new interest in Africa in 
the late 1950s, noting that one should neither misunderstand nor exaggerate its extent. “Policy for Africa 
remained largely in the hands of the bureau of European affairs. Africa was given a low priority by the 
administration, because it was still thought of as a European concern, and the idea of independence was 
frowned upon.” Gibbs, “Political Parties and International Relations,” 315. 



67 


course, supported the neo-colonialist architecture imposed upon the former colonies by 
their respective metropoles - a system purposely designed to ensure their continued 
dependence. Moreover, the United States only supported UN resolutions that were most 
notable for their watered-down language which admonished, but stopped short of 
condemning, South Africa for its racial policies or Portugal for its continued colonialism 
The Eisenhower Administration’s negligible shift in its approach toward African issues 
was short-lived and was affected by two episodes of violence in Africa. The first 
occurred in March 1960. It began when South African police opened fire on a crowd of 
black South Africans in the town of Sharpeville, who had gathered to peacefully protest 
the passage of several new apartheid laws. In what is known as the Sharpeville massacre, 
sixty-nine blacks were killed, mostly by gunshot wounds to their backs, and over two 
hundred were wounded. According to historian Thomas Borstelmann, the event signaled 
a major turning point in South Africa’s history as the blacks fought back. “The outraged 
black response led to the banning of political organizations opposed to apartheid. . .The 

o a 

ANC and other black groups went underground and took up weapons for the first time.’’ 


84 Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, 127. The Western press gave considerable coverage to 
the Sharpeville Massacre and the ensuing South African crackdown on dissident political organizations 
such as the ANC and the more radical Pan-Africanist Congress. Much of this coverage notably condemned 
the actions by South Africa and correctly assessed the counterproductive nature of its racial policies. See, 
for example, the Op Ed, “As Ye Sow,” The Washington Post, March 23, 1960, sec. A, p. 14. In criticizing 
the government of Prime Minister Verwoerd, the brief editorial noted, in part, “An entire people cannot be 
kept in permanent subjugation and denied all outlets for peaceful redress without inviting exactly the kind 
of calamitous incident that has now occurred. Will the South African government have to learn the ‘hard 



68 


This radicalization of parts of the black South African population worried Washington, 
whose response to the killing of innocents was lukewarm, at best. The American 
Ambassador to South Africa, Phillip Crowe, opined that the response of black Africans 
had created a dangerous revolutionary situation. The head of the CIA, Allen Dulles, 
worried that racial conflict would escalate, and that, as quoted by Borstelmann, 
“especially after the Congo becomes independent [in three months], there would be great 

oc 

opportunities for smuggling arms to the natives of South Africa.” 

The threat of instability in pro-Westem, anti-Communist South Africa brought out the 
private sentiments of the president and his closest foreign policy advisor, Secretary of 
State Christian Herter, John Foster Dulles’ successor. Mr. Herter was disconcerted when 
the State Department, without his approval, issued a statement of regret on the 
Sharpeville massacre . 86 After he discussed the press release with Eisenhower, the 
president told him to issue an official regret to the South African government, via 


way’ that its policies are inviting the very violence it fears?” In one sense, perhaps the editorial was also 
criticizing the racial policies of the American government. 

85 Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, 147. The author cites the following primary sources for 
the comments by Crowe and Dulles: Crowe to State Department 30 March 1960, Foreign Relations of the 
United States (FRUS), 1958-1960, 14: 747-748; Memo of NSC Meeting, 2 April 1960, Ann Whitman File 
(AWF), NSC Series, box 12, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library. 

86 The statement read in part, “The United States deplores violence in all its forms... While the United 
States, as a matter of practice, does not ordinarily comment on the internal affairs of governments with 
which it enjoys normal relations, it cannot help but regret the tragic loss of life resulting from measures 
taken against the demonstrators in South Africa.” Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United 
States, 1958-1960, vol. XIV, Africa, “Editorial Note” (Washington, D.C.” United States Government 
Printing Office, 1992), 741 (hereafter referred to as FRUS, vol. XIV, Africa). When Herter briefed 
President Eisenhower on March 24, he told the president that he had no prior knowledge of the statement 
and that “It occurred through internal failure within the State Department.” Ibid., 741-742. 



69 


Ambassador Phillip Crowe in Capetown, adding, “This action should be kept secret.” 
Eisenhower also told Herter “if it were his decision, he would find another post for the 
bureau Chief involved.” Shortly thereafter, in a conversation with Prime Minister 
Harold Macmillan of Great Britain, Eisenhower expressed his sympathy for the plight of 
the South African whites and “their ‘difficult social and political problem’; it reminded 
the president of his good wishes for his ‘friends in Atlanta on some of their 
difficulties .’” 88 

Eisenhower’s racist predilections, perhaps derived in part from the long periods of time 
he spent in the south while advancing through the Army rank structure, probably 
influenced his thinking on the Sharpville massacre and South Africa. However, as noted 
by Borstelmann, the president also gave due consideration to white South Africa’s 
intrinsic value to American power, which included U.S. strategic and economic interests 
and plans for a new missile tracking station in South Africa. Eisenhower’s closest 
advisors at State and the CIA apprised him that the apartheid regime was not about to 
crumble, nor would for the foreseeable future. Despite Sharpville, then, the United States 

on 

“chose to maintain its close relationship with the masters of apartheid.” 


87 Ibid., 742. 

88 Borstelman, The Cold War and the Color Line, 127. The author cites the following primary sources: 
FRUS, 1958-1960, 14: 741 (State Department, Eisenhower, Herter); Memo of Conversation, 28 March 
1960, FRUS, 1958-1960, 14: 746 (Eisenhower to Macmillan). 

89 Ibid., 128. 



70 


The second outbreak of violence in Africa that caught the president’s attention 
followed the 30 June 1960 independence of the Belgian Congo. Ill prepared for self- 
governance by the colonial policies of Belgium, the country quickly devolved into 
instability, chaos, and near civil war among competing factions. Mineral-rich Katanga, 
under the leadership of the pro-Westem and Belgian-supported Moise Tshombe, seceded 
immediately after independence. The nationalist Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, 
whose primary objective was to keep the newly independent nation unified, opposed the 
secession. 

Early on, State Department officials in both Washington and the Congo evaluated 
Lumumba as a neutral, non-Communist, African opportunist and the best alternative in 
the chaos-wracked nation to lead a national government. 90 However, he quickly became 
demonized when he demonstrated his willingness to call on the Soviet Union to expel the 
Belgian forces from Katanga after the United Nations had refused to send its forces into 
the secessionist state. At a National Security Council meeting in late July, for example, 
the CIA’s Allen Dulles called Lumumba “a Castro or worse’ who ‘has been bought by 


90 The American Embassy in Leopoldville (Kinshasa), for example, called Lumumba “an opportunist and 
not a Communist. . . who from very beginning has stood for unity of Congo.” At the same time, the 
embassy also warned against American or Belgian recognition of Katanga, which would “tempt Lumumbu 
to look to the Russians or other bloc countries” for assistance in putting down the secession. FRUS, vol. 
XVI, Africa, “Telegram from the Embassy in the Congo (Mcllvaine) to the Department of State,” July 26, 
1960, 356. 



71 

the Communists .’” 91 Ambassador Timberlake, in Leopoldville (Kinshasa), expressed 
similar sentiments, labeling the prime minister, “Lumumbavitch.” “ In August, 
Eisenhower ordered that Lumumba be removed. 

The Eisenhower Administration, along with Belgium, supported the Katanga 
secession. It justified this position by labeling Lumumba as a Communist and alleging 
that he had opened the door to Soviet penetration. As David Gibbs argues, however, 
there is very little evidence to suggest that the prime minister was a Communist or that 
the Soviet Union sought to control the Congo. Moreover, Lumumba asked for American 
and United Nations assistance in putting down the secession movement several weeks 
before he accepted Soviet assistance . 93 Anti-Communism, then, does not adequately 
explain Washington’s support for Tshombe’s breakaway region. Gibbs argues that the 
American position is largely explained by economic factors. Several high-ranking 
officials in the administration, including Christian Herter, his Under Secretary, C. 

Douglas Dillon, and Secretary of Defense, Thomas S. Gates, Jr., had important financial 
stakes in seeing an independent Katanga. At the time of the rebellion, these business 
interests paralleled those of the Belgians. Given the same economic interests, the United 

91 FRUS , vol. XIV, Africa, “Memorandum of Discussion at the 452d Meeting of the National Security 
Council,” July 21, 1960, 338-339. 

92 Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, 129. 

92 David N. Gibbs, The Political Economy of Third World Intervention: Mines, Money, and U.S. Policy in 
the Congo Crisis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 99. 



72 


States supported Belgium policy. In contrast, “Patrice Lumumba opposed the Belgians, 
and the USA sought to overthrow him.” 94 

The record of the Eisenhower Administration’s policy toward Africa, then, despite a 
brief interest in Africa in the late 1950s, including a temporary departure from its 
previous unconditional support for European colonialism, returned to form after the 
Congo erupted in violence and disorder in mid- 1960. 95 Coming on the heels of 
Sharpville, the crisis in the Congo revitalized the belief that white dominion was the only 
way to ensure stability and protect American interests in the region. This attitude was 
reinforced by South Africa, Rhodesia and Portugal. All three were quick to capitalize on 
the Congo violence in pointing out that only they were capable of insuring the continued 


94 Ibid., 101. Thomas Borstelmann expands the reasons for the Eisenhower Administration’s distaste for 
Lumumba to include what many officials believed were the prime minister’s eccentricities and his 
ingratitude toward the Belgians. They (and Belgian officials) variously portrayed Lumumba as irrational, 
insane, and a dope fiend and sorcerer. The author also argues that racism contributed to the unsavory 
portrait, abetted by news reports that detailed the killing and raping of white women by mutinous black 
soldiers. White House and State Department officials were preoccupied with this issue and Eisenhower 
came to dislike Lumumba more than he disliked Egyptian President Nasser. In August, with about 100 
Soviet and Czech technicians and Communist-bloc equipment arriving in Leopoldville, Eisenhower 
apparently ordered Lumumba’s removal during a National Security Council meeting. Borstelmann, The 
Cold War and the Color Line, 129-131. On this same subject, see Mahoney, JFK: Ordeal in Africa, 40-41. 

95 Washington’s reversion to its previous pro-colonialism stance was manifestly evident in late 1960 when 
it decided to abstain, along with Great Britain, France, Portugal, and South Africa, along with four others, 
on a UN General Assembly resolution denouncing colonialism and calling for its “speedy and 
unconditional end... in all its forms and manifestations.” Wright, The Destruction of a Nation, 30. The 
American UN representative, John Wadsworth, urged the president to support the resolution, pointing out 
that over forty African and Asian nations had sponsored it. The president was more swayed by Prime 
Minister Macmillan, who asked that the United States abstain, and by his desire not to provoke the 
Portuguese. The resolution, however, did pass. Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 59. For a Soviet 
perspective on the important vote on UN Resolution 1514, “UN Declaration on the Granting of 
Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples,” which the Soviet Union helped to draft and endorsed, 
see Oleg Ignatyev, Secret Weapon in Africa, trans. David Fidlon (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), 8. 



73 


stability necessary for exploitation of the region’s valuable mineral resources and keeping 
the Communists at bay. 96 As noted by Thomas Noer, “ The Congo. . .gave new credence 
to the claims of Lisbon, Salisbury, and Pretoria that they were the only safeguards against 

97 

violence, tribal warfare, and radicalism.” 

The administration’s pro- white stance, however, did not escape the scrutiny of the 
newly emerging nations in Africa and their friends elsewhere in the Third World. By 
1960, ‘‘The Year of Africa,” they formed a potent voting bloc intent on completing the 
liberation struggle through increased pressure on the remaining bastions of white rule. It 
also helped cement the African perception that the United States was the preeminent 
supporter of the colonial and neo-colonial world. This perception, which was real 
enough, thwarted American efforts to gain Third World support in its global competition 


96 They were not the only ones to point this out. I surveyed a number of American press reports on the first 
few weeks of the Congo violence and found that most of them approached sensationalism in their reporting. 
Almost all emphasized the killing of whites by blacks, which, in fact, was much less than the killing of 
blacks by other blacks or by whites. In the midst of this biased journalism, after Lumumba’s request to the 
Soviet Union, came such articles as Stanley Johnson, “Khrushchev Denies Right of U.S. to Keep Reds out 
of this Hemisphere,” Washington Post/Times Herald , July 13, 1960, sec. A, p. 15. The article conflated 
two very different dynamics - black violence following independence and Soviet interest in Africa - into a 
single, overarching theme: that black-on-white violence proved what the white minorities in southern 
Africa had been saying all along. Blacks were incapable of civilized behavior, including self-government, 
and because of their backwardness, they were especially susceptible to Communist influence. 

97 Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation , 58. According to Noer, by the spring of 1960, even before the 
outbreak of violence in the Congo, Eisenhower had already begun to reverse the brief, but at least 
symbolically positive, shift toward black Africa. As he recounts, the president stopped off briefly in Lisbon 
on his way to the Paris summit meeting with Khrushchev (subsequently aborted). During his two-day visit 
to Portugal, the president talked with Portuguese President Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. “The president 
rejected suggestions from his aides that he raise the issue of decolonization of Portugal’s African territories. 
Instead he publicly praised Lisbon’s ‘civilizing mission’ in Africa and claimed ‘there are no great problems 
between the United States and Portugal.’ ” Ibid. 



74 


with the Soviet Union. The Kremlin, portraying itself as the friend and patron of the 
global liberation struggle, consistently supported international efforts aimed at finally 

QO 

ending colonialism in all its forms. 

The Kennedy Reversal: American Support for African Nationalism 

John Kennedy’s election to the presidency in 1960 brought a fresh approach to 
American relations with the new nations and liberation movements in the Portuguese 
colonies. Years before the Kennedy election campaign had officially begun, his own and 
other voices criticizing American policy in Africa had became an irritant in the 
Eisenhower White House." In 1960, during the campaign, this criticism was especially 
troublesome to his opponent, Vice President Nixon. The young Senator from 
Massachusetts, whose interest in Africa and support for African nationalism dated from 
at least 1957, adeptly linked America’s continuing domestic racial problems with the 
administration’s support for the racist white regimes in Africa. He used the issue to 
attack what he termed the failed Republican leadership at home and abroad. Nixon was 
obliged to support the Eisenhower record. 


98 The Soviet Union, for example, supported the MPLA, if only modestly until 1975, from the mid-1950s 
onward, and contributed money and supplies to the OAU’s Liberation Committee in Dar-es-Salaam, 
Tanzania, after its establishment in 1963. 

99 Most notable in outsider criticisms of Eisenhower’s policies in Africa were those of future Kennedy 
appointees, Michigan Governor, G. Mennen Williams, and former ambassador to India and Connecticut 
Congressman, Chester Bowles. 



75 


As previously noted, Kennedy clearly recognized the significance of black nationalism 
sweeping through southern Africa. Despite this, his position on South Africa was 
essentially a continuation of past policies because of South Africa’s staunch anti- 
Communism and the beneficial strategic and economic aspects of the American-South 
African relationship. The president and his spokesmen publicly chastised the South 
Africans on their domestic racial policies. However, American (and Western) policies 
helped sustain the South African system in the face of intense international condemnation 
and increasing UN resolutions calling for economic sanctions and an arms embargo. The 
United States refused to vote in favor of the former, while pre-empting the latter by 
unilaterally declaring its own partial arms embargo, in August 1963, before a crucial UN 
vote on the issue. 100 


100 The United States did vote for Security Council Resolution 181 calling for an end of arms sales to South 
Africa. However, it did so only after Adlai Stevenson had qualified the American vote by reiterating 
American opposition to economic sanctions and then announcing that the United States would implement 
its own partial embargo by the end of 1963. Moreover, he iterated that the United States would continue to 
honor its previous arms agreements with South Africa and reserve the right to alter its partial arms embargo 
if future circumstances warranted such a change. In effect, the United States retained an escape clause and 
viewed the UN arms embargo as “recommendatory” but not “mandatory,” given the existence of the 
American partial embargo. The partial arms embargo was, according to Thomas Noer, “the major effort of 
the Kennedy administration to show its hatred of apartheid and it sympathy with the frustration of black 
Africa. . .It was neither total nor irreversible. While Kennedy and some of his advisers saw it as a dramatic 
new step, it was also a conservative gambit to avoid more radical measures. Having ruled out economic 
sanctions, Kennedy was left with only the arms issue.” Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 149. 

Thomas Borstelmann concurs with Noer’s assessment of the effects of the American embargo, noting that 
the Kennedy Administration’s “announcement of a unilateral partial arms embargo on South Africa in 
August 1963 symbolically disassociated the United States from the land of apartheid, while undermining 
the UN campaign for a more severe embargo and not materially damaging Verwoerd’s military strength.” 
Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, 156. 



76 


The American decision to implement a partial arms embargo, perhaps a psychological 
victory for black Africans but a practical victory for the South African regime, reflected 
the strength of the traditional American foreign policy imperatives of maintaining 
stability and denying Communist influence in the region. Thomas Borstelmann 
succinctly summarized this continuing priority by noting, “The Kennedy administration’s 
unwillingness to go beyond rhetorical condemnation of South Africa’s racial policies 
reflected its reluctance to encourage any destabilization of the Pretoria government in 
light of the political alternatives in the republic.” 101 

Despite the president’s reluctance to make the hard decisions on South Africa for fear 
of destabilizing the white regime, the new direction in African policy was evident in the 
administration’s actions toward Portuguese colonialism and the Congo. In regards to the 
former, for nearly the first two years of his presidency, Kennedy and his African advisors 
took a hard stance toward Portuguese colonialism, which put them at odds with many of 
the West Europeans. This time frame was notably bracketed on the front end by the 
American support, for the first time, of a March 1961 Security Council resolution calling 
for self-determination in the Portuguese African colonies and for the establishment of a 
committee to investigate the situation in Angola, which had erupted in violence in early 
February 1961 when several hundred black Angolans had stormed Luanda’s main 


101 


Ibid., 155. 



77 


1 0? 

prison. “ As to be expected, the Soviet Union also supported the resolution, which failed 
passage because of six abstentions, including the British and the French. Authors 
Michael A. Samuels and Stephen M. Haykin described the precedent-breaking 
significance of the American vote. “The American act rang out like a pistol shot and was 
interpreted as a repudiation of the position [abstention] taken in December, 1960 by the 

1 ftt 

outgoing Eisenhower Administration on the question of anticolonialism.'’ 

On the same day as the UN vote, March 15, the new administration further distanced 
itself from the previous administration’s policy of support for Western European colonial 
and neo-colonial policies towards Africa. In a policy statement previously approved by 
President Kennedy and Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, Francis W. Carpenter, a 
spokesman for the American UN delegation, said the United States “would pursue an 
independent policy on African problems.” Mr. Carpenter further noted, “Our allies were 


102 The 15 March 1961 UN vote, ironically, came on the same day that widespread violence broke out in 
northern Angola, signifying the beginning of the Angolan rebellion against the Portuguese. 

103 Samuels and Haykin, “The Anderson Plan,” 653. The American vote was severely criticized by the 
Portuguese press, no doubt encouraged by the Salazar regime. As reported by the Associated Press, for 
example, the Lisbon newspaper Diario da Manha “said the United States had lined up ‘with the Reds 
against a partner that is on the same side in the battlefront. It was an act of stupidity.”’ “U.S. Confirms 
African Policy,” Santa Ana Register, 18 March 1961, 3. Following the March 1961 vote, the American UN 
Ambassador, Adlai E. Stevenson, voted for three succeeding resolutions, two from the General Assembly 
and one from the Security Council, dealing with the Angolan situation and calling for an end to 
colonialism. As in the March vote, the United States again sided with the Soviet Union against its NATO 
partner, Portugal. However, on all four resolutions, the American delegation successfully urged that all 
references to the provisions of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter be deleted from the resolutions. Chapter 7 
called for an arms embargo and economic sanctions against any country that, because of its actions, 
represented a threat to international peace and security. The American representatives, led by Stevenson, 
insisted this situation was not applicable in the case of Portuguese colonialism. Portugal, however, did not 
appreciate the American success in moderating the resolutions’ language. 



78 


informed in advance. We have a deep and continuing common interest with them. The 
difficulty and complexity of African questions are, however, such that there are and may 
continue to be differences in approach in some of them.” 104 

The other notable break with the West Europeans came with Kennedy’s policy in the 
Congo. The administration staunchly supported, in words and actions, a United Nations 
military buildup in the new nation to destroy Tshombe’s power and crush the Katangan 
secession. This action undermined not only Belgium’s efforts in support of the rebellion, 
but also ran counter to British, French, Portuguese, and South African covert support for 
Katanga. As David Gibbs notes, however, this break with the Western allies “led to a 
substantial increase in US influence in central Africa. . .US officials became close 
advisers to the Congolese government, especially after General Joseph Mobutu seized 
power in 1965.” Increased American influence was also felt elsewhere in central Africa 
as Washington encouraged and subsidized investment in the underdeveloped nations in 
the region. 

This distancing from European colonialism and neo-colonialism, however, had it 
limits. At the end of the twenty-two month period of American support for self- 

104 “U.S. Confirms African Policy,” Santa Ana Register, 18 March 1961, 3. 

105 Gibbs, “Political Parties and International Relations,” 323-324. According to the author, the United 
States provided about half of the funds for the UN force, giving Washington a major voice in the Congo 
operation. With the United States’ support, the multinational force attacked and defeated Katanga’s army 
in late 1962-early 1963, and Katanga was reintegrated. Ibid., 324. 



79 


determination in Portugal’s colonies, Washington shifted course. In December 1962, it 
voted against two Security Council anti-colonialism resolutions. The first called for self- 
determination and independence for Angola, then the only Portuguese colony facing a 
black nationalist revolt. The second included economic sanctions and an arms embargo 
against the Portuguese. The American votes came on the eve of the expiration of the 
American lease of military facilities in the Azores, scheduled to run out on 31 December 
1962. They were apparently designed to appease the Portuguese who remained 
intransigent on both the colonial question and renewal of the base lease. 

Within this nearly two-year time frame, however, there were notable gains made for 
the cause of liberation for Portugal’s colonies. These included: the number of “yes” 
votes on support for Angolan independence; the official beginning of support for Holden 
Roberto and Eduardo Mondlane in Angola and Mozambique, respectively; 106 the 


106 According to Leslie Gelb of the New York Times, American support for Holden Roberto dated to 1962 
when “President Kennedy determined that Portugal... could not sustain control over her African colonies 
indefinitely and that contact must be made with future revolutionary leaders. On the advice of the CIA, 
among others, Mr. Roberto, the brother-in-law of General Mobutu, was selected as a future leader of 
Angola.” Leslie Gelb, “U.S., Soviets, China Reported Aiding Portugal, Angola,” 22. See also Seymour 
Hersh, “Early Angola Aid by U.S. Reported, 14. However, as documented in the Portuguese Africa 
sections of the Foreign Relations of the United States, American aid to Roberto actually went back earlier 
than the “1962” date given by journalists Gelb and Hersh, as well as others. On May 23, 1961, for 
example, following the outbreak of violence in northern Angola in March 1961, which was instigated by 
Holden Roberto’s Union of the People’s of Angola (UPA - the predecessor to the FNLA), the State 
Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research wrote, “Regarding the background of this issue, it is true 
that the Union des Populations d’Angola (UPA) was involved in the recent terrorism and that the Agency 
has been giving Holden Roberto, the leader of the UPA, financial assistance for some years ” (author’s 
accent). The State Department letter then added, “the Department first learned of this connection last 
March when the Agency raised with the Department the question as to whether it would be in the U.S. 



80 


imposition of a partial arms embargo against the Portuguese, which prohibited the use of 
American-supplied arms in the African colonies that had been provided for sole use in the 
NATO mission area; increased public criticism of Portuguese colonialism; and early 
attempts by administration officials to pull or prod Portugal towards decolonization 
through economic inducements, but always with the understanding that its recognition of 
self determination for its colonies did not necessarily mean their complete break with the 
metropole. A brief discussion of these efforts follows. 

Washington Tries to Buy Portuguese Decolonization 

There were two serious attempts during the Kennedy Administration to economically 
entice Lisbon’s acceptance of eventual self-determination for its African colonies. The 
first was a January 1962 nine-point plan prepared by Paul Sakwa of the CIA. His 
recommendations featured an immense economic plan for both colonial and metropolitan 
development and modernization and American political backing for Holden Roberto and 
Eduardo Mondlane to groom them as future prime ministers of their respective 
governments in Angola and Mozambique. In turn, the plan called upon the Portuguese to 
allow the establishment of colonial political parties by 1965 and a referendum by 1967 in 


interest to support the UPA itself.” Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961- 
1 963 , vol. XXI, Africa, “Letter from the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hilsman) to 
the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy),” May 23, 1961 (Washington, D.C.: 
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), 543. The State Department’s letter is also interesting in that it 
demonstrates that its own intelligence division did not know about the activities of the CIA until several 
years after it had established a relationship with Roberto and that the black insurgents, despite the Kennedy 
Administration’s avowed sympathy with the liberation struggles, were deemed to be “terrorists.” 



81 


which both the black and white populations would participate. The referendum would 
provide the opportunity for the electorate to choose their future relationship with 
Portugal, including full independence to be granted by 1970. 

Sakwa apparently based his plan on several previous, but less-detailed, proposals by 
Burke Elbrick, the American Ambassador to Portugal. Unlike Elbrick’s plan, however, 
Sakwa, a former head of the CIA’s clandestine operations in Vietnam, called for 
American contacts with the then growing moderate civilian and military opposition to 
Salazar with the idea of encouraging them to overthrow the government if it refused to 

107 

consider the gradual decolonization proposal. 

Sakwa’ s plan was considered and rejected, primarily because the Kennedy 
Administration was averse to considering the covert overthrow of a NATO ally, although 
the NSC approved a similar plan, sans the proposed CIA-instigated revolt. The president 
relayed the contents of this plan to Salazar in March 1962, but the Prime Minister 
rejected it during a visit by Dean Rusk to Lisbon in late June 1962. Salazar did, however, 
agree to begin negotiations on the Azores base facilities, perhaps to derail the prospect of 
any more such proposals coming his way. 

Six months later, in January 1963, Chester Bowles, now the president’s special advisor 

on Asian, African, and Latin American Affairs, proposed a program of economic 

107 The Sakwa Plan is discussed in detail in Wright, The Destruction of a Nation , 39-41, and Noer, Cold 
War and Black Liberation, 86-88. 



82 


inducements, not unlike that of the rejected Sakwa plan. Bowles’ “Proposal for a 
Breakthrough in U.S. -Portuguese Relations in Regard to Africa,” called for American, 
NATO, and Organization for European Cooperation and Development (OECD) political 
and economic support for development and modernization in the colonies and Portugal, 
proposed a five-year transition period leading to self-determination in the African 
territories, and required that Portugal recognize African leaders, both inside and outside 
the colonies, as legitimate contenders for political power. The president rejected 
Bowles’ plan, but his ideas, and some of those embodied in the earlier Sakwa proposal, 
later appear in modified form in the 1965 Anderson Plan, proposed by the then American 
ambassador to Portugal, Admiral George W. Anderson (and discussed later in this 
chapter). 

The American efforts to purchase a Portuguese commitment to gradual decolonization, 

embodied in both the Sakwa and Bowles plan, embraced the idea that self-determination 

did not necessarily mean automatic independence, and that a plebiscite within each of 

Portugal’s colonies would determine the future status of their relationship with Lisbon. 

The lengthy transition period proposed in the American plans, with an emphasis on the 

inclusion and development of what the Americans believed to be moderate political 

forces (i.e., Holden Roberto and Eduardo Mondlane) suggested that whatever the 

108 The Bowles proposal, submitted to President Kennedy for consideration on January 10, 1963, is detailed 
in Samuels and Haykin, “The Anderson Plan,” 650-657. 



83 


outcome of the referendum - independent countries governed by pro-Western leaders, or 
continued Portuguese hegemony through a commonwealth or confederation - would 
serve the American interest in directing and managing the forces of change, in preserving 
stability, and in countering Communist efforts to increase their influence on the 
continent. 

Washington’s attempts to induce the Portuguese to “associate itself publicly with ‘a 
reasonable concept of self-determination,”’ failed to shake the determination of the 
Lisbon government to hold on to its territories . 109 The economic rewards were great, up 
to one billion dollars over five years as proposed in the Bowles plan, but neither plan 
took into account the psychological dimensions of the Portuguese claim on its colonies. 
As noted by Samuels and Haykin, “The African territories were the heart of the 
Portuguese Empire. The global distribution of the colonies and their economic resources 
were the major, perhaps the only, signs of the significance of Portugal in the modern 
world. To abandon the African colonies would mortally wound Portugal’s heritage and 
responsibility .” 110 Moreover, as observed by John Marcum, “Above all, Portugal, 


109 

110 


Samuels and Haykin, “The Anderson Plan,” 660. 
Ibid., 652. 



84 


through its ruling elite, was committed to the pursuit of a Eurafrican ‘mission’ which 

alone gave it the status of something more than a minor Iberian power.” 111 

The plans also underestimated what Salazar and his ruling elite considered to be a 

workable time frame for the political and economic development of its colonies. Samuels 

and Haykin noted that Salazar believed there was no need for a rush towards self- 

determination as the Americans desired, since time was on Portugal’s side. “After a 

discussion with Salazar, George Ball ‘was struck that the Portuguese have a wholly 

different time sense about the problem than do we; Salazar spoke in terms of fifty years 

112 

for developments that we would envisage coming in ten or even five years.’” 

Further, there were no indications that the black African nationalist leaders and their 
African supporters would accept anything other than immediate and full independence. 
Both the Sakwa and Bowles plans assumed they could be convinced to participate in 
gradual decolonization, which meant, among other things, a cessation of guerrilla 
activities and a general African consensus for the process. The basis of such an 
assumption seems to have been wishful thinking. While the United States and Portugal 
may have agreed upon the definition of self-determination, the African nationalists 
equated it only with full independence, as indicated in an early November 1963 meeting 

111 John A. Marcum, “The Politics of Indifference: Portugal and Africa, A Case Study in American Foreign 
Policy,” East African Studies V (Syracuse: Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, 1972), 5. 

112 Samuels and Haykin, “The Anderson Plan,” 652. 



85 


between President Kennedy, George Ball and other State Department representatives and 
Portuguese Foreign Minister Franco Nogueira. The latter “said the Portuguese 
government defined self-determination in the same manner as did the United States 
government. If there were to be true self-determination all options should be open 
including independence. Self-determination as defined by the Africans is not self- 

113 

determination at all as it is limited only to independence.” 

Finally, the plans avoided the real reason why the Portuguese could so easily reject 
them, or any blueprint suggesting an end to their civilizing mission - they still retained 
the Azores, their ace up the sleeve. They knew that the American military establishment 
coveted the American base facilities at Lajes airfield. Indeed, the Joint Chiefs were 
consistent in their arguments that the United States not sacrifice its strategic interests in 
the islands on the altar of moral principles. The JCS stated its opinion clearly in July 
1963. “In order to protect vital US strategic military interests in the Azores and avoid 
further weakening of the NATO alliance, the United States should resist the institution of 
strong measures against Portugal.” 114 The military chiefs, supported by their Europeanist 


113 Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, vol. XXI, Africa, 
“Memorandum of Conversation, Portuguese African Problems,” November 7, 1963, 581. 

114 The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, US Policy Toward Portugal and 
Republic of South Africa, JCSM-528-63 (10 July 1963), p. 3 [database on-line]; available from Digital 
National Security Archives (South Africa Collection). The American military use of facilities in the 
Azores, primarily at the Lajes airfield on the island of Terceira, dated back to 1944 when it was used as a 
refueling site for American cargo planes carrying supplies to the Middle East, Pakistan and China and for 
aircraft involved in protecting the shipping lanes between Europe and the United States. In the post-war 



86 


allies in the State Department and elsewhere, maintained this position, even though their 
superior in the chain of command, Defense Secretary McNamara, believed it was 
“possible to live without the Azores base and that it should not dictate our foreign 
policy .” 115 

Kennedy clearly recognized the leverage the Azores base agreement gave the 
Portuguese. According to Kennedy Special Council, Ted Sorensen, at least early in his 
administration, the president was prepared to give up the base to get the Azores monkey 
off his back once and for all. Sorensen relates that following the American support in 


period, a series of agreements under the title “The Supplementary Agreement for Defense,” established a 
permanent American military presence in the Azores and allowed for NATO, as well as American, use of 
the base. The third renewal of these serial agreements, the one that plagued the Kennedy Administration, 
ran from 15 November 1957 to 31 December 1962. Salazar refused to renew the agreement because he 
recognized the leverage it provided him over the American posture towards Portuguese colonialism. It was 
extended for one year, from 1 January 1963 to 1 January 1964, but on a de facto basis with the Portuguese 
only obligated to give the United States a six-month notice of expulsion. During the one-year extension, 
the American government asked permission from the Portuguese to install the Loran-C navigational system 
in the islands. Portugal was slow to respond to these requests because, at noted by the CIA, they preferred 
to “use this as a point of pressure to persuade the US to ease off on the colonial issue.” Central Intelligence 
Agency, Special Memorandum No. 9-64 , Salazar’s Current Prospects, June 8, 1964, p. 6 [database on- 
line]; available from www.foia.cia.gov. The de facto use of the facilities continued until the early Nixon 
Administration. Nixon and Kissinger’s favorable posture toward Portugal and the colonial issue led to 
renegotiations and the conclusion of a new agreement extending to February 3, 1974. 

115 Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, vol. XXIV, Africa, “Memorandum for the Record, 
Meeting of 4 May 1964 re U.S. Policy toward the Portuguese Possessions in Africa,” May 4, 1964 
[database on-line]; available from www.state.gov. The strictly military perspective of the JCS led them to 
somewhat exaggerate the importance of the Azores. As pointed out to President Kennedy by Special 
Council Sorensen, “letting the agreement lapse might be less of a disaster than paying too high a price for 
its renewal. . .And for the duration of the NATO Treaty, the U.S. would retain the right of transit for aircraft 
engaged in NATO missions and the right, in the event of war in Europe, to full use of the base under 
Portuguese maintenance, including its use for stockpiling needed supplies. In short, it would be hard for 
any critic to say we had weakened our security by ‘giving up’ our rights to use this base.” “Memorandum 
to the President from Theodore C. Sorensen, Azores - Angola,” June 4, 1962, p. 1 [Database on-line]; 
available from Declassified Documents Reference System. 



87 


early 1961 for UN resolutions criticizing Portuguese colonialism, “...the Portuguese 
thereafter tried every form of diplomatic blackmail to alter our position on Angola, using 
as a wedge our country’s expiring lease on a key military base on the Portuguese Azores 
Islands. The President finally felt that, if necessary, he was prepared to forgo the base 
entirely rather than permit Portugal to dictate his African policy.” 116 

Despite these sentiments, Kennedy’s position regarding Portugal and her colonies was 
affected by the lapsing Azores agreement, especially as the American-Soviet tensions 
over Berlin heated up in 1961 and the military chiefs and Europeanists in his 
administration emphasized the importance of the Azores to the defense of Western 
Europe. While the new president did have a strong affinity for Africa and Africans, was 
quick to exhibit his positive sentiments through official and unofficial methods and 
channels, and was able to affect a more Afro-centric approach in American policy from 
early 1961 until late 1962, more pressing international matters affecting the Cold War 
balance eventually moderated his progressive approach toward African issues. 

The Johnson Administration: Return to Passive Neglect 

Lyndon B. Johnson gave much less attention to African affairs, especially those 
concerning the Portuguese colonies, than did his predecessor. During the first eighteen 
months of Johnson’s presidency, other international events focused his attention 

116 Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1965), 538. 



88 


elsewhere, most notably the situation in Vietnam where, in early 1965, the president 
authorized a major increase in the American force level. Thereafter, Johnson would be 
consumed by defeating the Communist challenge in Asia while trying to implement 
major domestic reforms. Public criticism of white rule in Africa did continue. However, 
as noted by Samuels and Haykin, “the potency of American anticolonial policy declined,” 
and as observed by a senior official in the Portuguese Foreign Ministry at the time, “the 
Johnson administration was not as involved or as persistent as the Kennedy 

1 IV 

administration on Portuguese colonial policy.” 

In its policy toward South Africa, the administration continued the Kennedy-imposed 
partial arms embargo against the Republic of South Africa, but the oversight effort to 
ensure compliance with the embargo’s restrictions was spotty, at best. As noted by 
Kenneth Mokoena, the American government essentially turned a blind eye to violations 
of the embargo. These included transactions through third countries via partially or 
wholly owned American subsidiaries, illegal direct corporate sales, and the guise of 
declaring equipment, such as transport planes, helicopters, and communications and 
computer systems as “dual use,” thereby violating at least the spirit of the partial 

i i o 

embargo. At the same time, while blocking American naval participation in exercises 
with the South African Navy and prohibiting U.S. Navy ships from visiting South 

117 Samuels and Haykin, “The Anderson Plan,” 659. 

118 Mokoena, South Africa and the United States, xxii. 



89 


African ports, a somewhat superficial nod to the American policy of opposing apartheid, 
trade and investment in the Republic continued unabated, as did nuclear power 
collaboration and intelligence cooperation. 119 

The administration’s policy towards Portugal was generally helpful to Lisbon’s 
colonialism, despite an American vote for a Security Council resolution in December 
1963 calling for self-determination in Angola. As directed by the White House, 
Ambassador Stevenson was able to moderate the language of the resolution, which 
originally condemned Portugal and called for economic sanctions, to one that simply 
criticized Portugal without reference to economic sanctions. This was, however, the 
Johnson Administration’s last support for UN actions criticizing Lisbon’s colonial 
policies. It demonstrated that some of the remaining Africanists in the administration, 
including G. Mennen Williams and Ambassador Stevenson, still retained some, if 
declining, influence within the White House. 


119 Ibid., xxi. The United States government also continued to condemn the racial policies of Rhodesia and 
following the British lead, in 1966 voted for UN economic sanctions against the Salisbury government of 
Ian Smith after it declared its independence from the UK in November 1965. According to Thomas Noer, 
the United States enforced these sanctions better than most, including Great Britain. Noer, Cold War and 
Black Liberation, 231 . Also, in an act of support for landlocked Zambia, which closed its borders to 
Rhodesia following the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), thereby severely affecting its own 
economic situation, the Johnson Administration joined a British-led airlift to bring oil to Zambia. 

Generally, during the Johnson Administration, the United States’ policy toward Rhodesia fell into lock step 
with that of the British. However, during most of 1966, there were strains in the alliance as the United 
States came to believe that Great Britain’s policy was too inconsistent and that the United States needed to 
take more of an independent stance on the Rhodesian issue after allegations surfaced in the UN that 
American foreign policy was being made in London. Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 213. Despite 
these tensions, as noted by Noer, “America demonstrated its solidarity with Great Britain. Even though the 
‘special relationship’ was often strained, it did endure.” Ibid., 237 



90 


During the Johnson era, reports detailing Portuguese use of American weapons in their 
African colonies, which had begun after Kennedy’s imposition of the restrictive arms 
embargo of 1961, rose to new levels. This was especially true after Zambia’s 
independence in late 1964. President Kenneth Kaunda granted sanctuary to both the 
MPLA and FLNA within its territory from which both carried out operations into eastern 
Angola. Jonas Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola 
(UNITA) also joined in these so-called eastern front operations following its 
establishment in 1966. The increasing accusations of Portuguese use of American 
weaponry in Angola, documented by reports from the government of Zambia following 
several cross-border incidents by the Portuguese military, was probably a result of the 
American government’s lack of concern either with pressuring the Portuguese to cease 

1 90 

their use or with monitoring the partial arms embargo, or both. 

In fact, a widely publicized incident involving the planned transfer of an alleged 
twenty refurbished and refitted WWII B-26 bombers to Portugal for use in Africa 


120 See, for example. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 , vol. XXIV, 
Africa, “Telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Zambia, Angola-Zambian Border 
Incident.” July 27, 1966 [database on-line]; available from http://www.state.gov. This lengthy message 
details a Zambian complaint to the American Ambassador in Lusaka that two spent shells with American 
markings were found in a destroyed Zambian village near the Angolan border. Part of the State 
Department’s response demonstrated the ambiguity of the Johnson Administration’s posture toward the 
arms embargo. The message stated, “as long as exile military activity against Angola based in Zambia 
continues, retaliatory attacks bound take place,” and questioned whether the Zambian report had been 
accurate in stating that the incident actually took place inside Zambia. Further, it continued, “Even if item 
determined be of US origin there no way we could establish who had possession or how it had been 
obtained.” Ibid. 



91 


suggests that the American government, or at least the CIA, had at least on one occasion 
actually participated in the direct transfer of American war materiel in flagrant violation 
of the arms embargo. “Operation Sparrow,” allegedly the Government code name for the 
escapade, surfaced when British pilot, John Richard Hawke, and one of his accomplices, 
a French aircraft broker by the name of Henri Marie Francois de Marin de Montmarin, 
were arrested in Miami in September 1965 by American customs officials. They were 
tried a year later in Buffalo, NY, on charges of violating the Munitions Control Act since 
they were operating without the necessary State Department approved export license. A 
third individual, naturalized American Gregory R. Board, the owner of Tucson-based 
Aero Associates and the individual who actually contracted for the delivery of the 
bombers, conveniently fled the country and was never apprehended. 

During the trial, CIA witnesses called by the defense attorney denied the agency’s 
participation in the plan, despite both Hawke’s and de Montmarin’ s contention that they 
were hired by the CIA. As reported by David Welsh, a writer for Ramparts magazine, 
the arrest of Hawke and de Montmarin, after they had already delivered seven of the 
bombers, was nothing more than a scapegoat ploy by the American government. Their 
apprehension came on the eve of the fall 1965 session of the UN General Assembly 
during which the Portuguese colonial issue was to be a leading item on the agenda. Thus, 
as Welsh noted, “Washington had good cause to be worried. The U.S. delegation knew 



92 


that this time, the attacks of African nations and the Soviet bloc would be directed not 

only at Portugal, but at those nations supplying Portugal with arms. . .Their arrest as 

‘private smugglers’ was immediately seized upon by our U.N. delegation as evidence of 

American innocence in the Portuguese African wars.” Further, Welsh concluded, “It is 

perhaps not a coincidence, either, that the trial was scheduled to open this fall (a year 

after the arrests) simultaneously with the convening of the General Assembly, at which 

121 

the question of Portuguese Africa was again expected to figure prominently.” 

The Johnson Administration’s more sympathetic approach toward the Portuguese 
government did not prevent State Department officials from trying, yet again, to force 
Portugal’s hand on the colonial issue through various plans. The first of these attempts, 
which G. Mennen Williams proposed in April 1964, called for American clandestine 
support for a nationalist non-violent political action program both within and outside the 
African territories. This was Williams’ last hurrah (he and the administration parted 
ways in 1966, but by early 1964, his “Africa for the Africans” voice had already been 
muted), and it proved to be illusionary. It presumed extensive cooperation between the 
MPLA and FNLA and, ultimately, between the Africans and Portugal. It also was 
somewhat naive in thinking that the liberation movements, committed to the forcible 

121 David Welsh, “Flyboys of the CIA, Ramparts , 11-18 December 1966, 18. The Buffalo jury acquitted 
both men. See also “Bomber Pilot Charges CIA Involved in Illegal Exports,” Orange County Register, 
October 10, 1966, sec. B, p. 9. 



93 


overthrow of the Portuguese since 1961 in Angola, 1963 in Guinea-Bissau, and 1964 in 
Mozambique, would now agree to a form of passive resistance. Finally, even if the 

nationalists did agree to a non-violent path to self-determination, there was little hope that 

122 

the Portuguese would come to terms with the movements’ leadership. 

To sell his plan to the Cold Warriors in the administration, Williams emphasized that 
the nationalist movements were becoming more radicalized and were admitting more 
extremists and pro-Communists elements into their organizations. Thus, “The most 
immediate problem in the overall issue is. . . to try to prevent the nationalists from 
mortgaging their future to the Communists and from reaching a stage where they will no 
longer be disposed to negotiate a moderate and evolutionary settlement when Portugal 

1 99 

finally comes around to offering one.” 


122 In a report in June 1964, in fact, the CIA estimated that since the short-term outlook for continued 
Portuguese control over its colonies had improved considerably since the uprisings began in Angola in 
1961, it was doubtful that Salazar “will ever publicly agree to genuine self-determination for the overseas 
territories.” While noting that the “long-range prognosis for Portugal’s African territories remains 
questionable,” the Agency estimated, “the present indications are that Dr. Salazar will have a good deal 
more time to play out his hand than most observers were willing to give him a year or two ago.” Central 
Intelligence Agency, “Special Memorandum No. 9-64, Salazar’s Current Prospects,” June 8, 1964, 4, pp. 
10-11 [database on-line]; available from http://www.foia.cia.gov. Williams’ plan for non-violent political 
action is set out in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 , vol. XXIV, Africa , “Action 
Memorandum from the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (William) to Secretary of State 
Rusk,” April 29, 1964 [database on-line]; available from http://www.state.gov. 

123 Ibid. Williams may be referring here, in part, to the defection of the MPLA’s Viriato da Cruz, allegedly 
a pro-Chinese nationalist, to the FNLA, and Roberto’s decision in January 1964, which he conveniently 
made public, to accept support from Communist nations, most notably both the Soviet Union and China. In 
fact, China allegedly agreed to provide some arms to Roberto’s movement, but Prime Minister Tshombe 
blocked the weapons from reaching Roberto. On Viriato da Cruz’ defection to the FNLA, see J. Anthony 
Lukas, “Angola Rebel Front Grants Membership to Pro-China Group,” New York Times , April 23, 1964, 2. 



94 


The 303 Committee (the forerunner of the Forty Committee, a high-level inter- 
departmental organization established to consider clandestine operations) considered the 
plan in early May 1964. Thomas Noer remarks that it was subsequently allowed, “to die 
the slow bureaucratic death of postponement and inaction.” ' This was only partially 
true, because the 303 Committee recommended that the plan be presented to Prime 
Minister Adoula of the Congo (Leopoldville), the principal patron of Holden Roberto and 
his FNLA. Depending on Adoula’ s response, further discussions on the Williams plan 
might follow. 125 

The re-eruption of violence in the Congo, in June 1964 following the departure of UN 
peacekeeping forces, hastened the demise of Williams’ plan and the 303 Committee’s 
recommendations. With the country in disarray, Prime Minister Adoula resigned. In 
early July, Moise Tshombe became prime minister at the request of President 


On Roberto’s public announcement to seek aid from Communist nations, see “Angolan Rebels to Take Red 
Aid,” New York Times, January 4, 1964, 15; “Congo to Rule Aid to Angola Rebels,” New York Times, 
January 8, 1964, 4; J. Anthony Lewis, “Adoula Cautions Angolan Rebels,” New York Times, March 23, 
1964, 10. 

124 Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 117. 

125 Foreign Relation of the United States, 1964-1968, vol. XXIV, Africa, “Memorandum for the Record, 
Meeting of 4 May 1964 re U.S. Policy toward the Portuguese Possessions in Africa,” May 4, 1964 
[database on-line]; available from http://www.state.gov. The exact wording of the committee’s 
recommendation to test the African response to the Williams plan has been sanitized, but “reading between 
the lines,” the reader gets the impression that probably Holden Roberto and perhaps Eduardo Mondlane 
were also to be approached, via American diplomats in Africa, for their comments on the plan. The 303 
Committee concluded its recommendation by stating, “Depending on their responses, additional steps for 
covert discussions and support could be initiated.” Ibid. 




95 


Kasavubu. 126 Now, the nation faced another series of spontaneous rebellions against the 
man who, according to Thomas Borstelmann, was “perhaps the most hated black political 
figure in Africa.” 127 

While the United States had been instrumental in crushing Tshombe’s Katanga 
rebellion during the Kennedy Administration, the violent events of mid- 1964 changed 
Washington’s thinking. As noted by Thomas Borstelmann, the CIA informed President 
Johnson, ‘“Should Tshombe fall, ‘the prospects are dark.’” 128 The agency’s dire 
predictions for an increase in extremism, chaos and even secessionist movements 
breaking off from the central government persuaded President Johnson that it was in the 
American interest to assist the Tshombe government, along with Belgium, in 
reestablishing control over the country. However, the president did not foresee the 
consequences of associating itself with Africa’s “Uncle Tom,” and his neocolonial 
supporters, the Belgians. 

American involvement in this latest Congo crisis reached its apex in late 1964 when a 
rebel force attacked Stanleyville (now called Kisangani) in the northeastern Congo and 
seized a number of white civilian hostages, including five Americans. Belgian 


126 Gibbs argues that Kasavubu’ s decision to bring Tshombe back resulted from pressure from Belgian 
companies who believed their economic interests would be protected under his leadership. Moreover, 
declassified American government documents “clearly imply a Belgian role.” Gibbs, The Political 
Economy of Third World Intervention, 153. 

127 Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, 182. 

128 Ibid., 183. 



96 


paratroopers, flown in by American C-130s, were dropped on the outskirts of the city on 
November 24. Along with a white mercenary force, including South Africans, they 
fought their way into the city. The operation, known as Dragon Rouge, succeeded in 
rescuing the hostages. The Belgian paratroopers soon departed, but the mercenary forces 
pushed on. By March 1965, the insurgency was contained and no longer presented a 

no 

serious threat to the central government. 

Most African nations objected not only to Tshombe, but also to his external support, 
especially the combined American-Belgian-white mercenary force that retook 
Stanleyville. As assessed by Thomas Borstelmann, “they saw it as a reassertion of 
external white control over the sovereignty of an African state.” Washington and the 
American public, the latter informed, as in 1960, by sensationalist press reports of 
Congolese black rebels assaulting innocent white victims, were surprised by the almost 
unanimous African condemnation of American participation in the largely successful 
Stanleyville hostage rescue mission - and that was precisely how it was perceived in the 
United States. The consequences of Stanleyville, as they effected any future American 
efforts to support black Africans against the remaining white regimes in southern Africa, 


1-9 Gibbs, The Political Economy of Third World Intervention, 159. 
130 Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, 184. 



97 


were both a bitterness at the African reaction and, as noted by Thomas Noer, a deep 
“disillusionment with black Africa by late 1964.” 131 

To a large degree, the African reaction to the Stanleyville incident, underscored by 
widespread American perceptions of savage black cannibals running amok in the dark 
jungles of Africa, explains the Johnson’s Administration’s increasing reticence in 
condemning Portuguese colonialism. Although the liberation movements in Lisbon’s 
various colonies had begun their insurgencies, the Lusitanian empire still represented a 

i in 

relative sea of stability in sub-Saharan Africa. “ Moreover, Tshombe’s return to power 


131 Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 168. 

132 The restraint in confronting Lisbon’s colonialism, as discussed, actually began dining the Kennedy 
administration as the American lease on the Azores military facilities approached expiration. Moreover, 
support for the anti-Portuguese liberation movements came under increasing attacks as the Europeanists in 
the State Department rallied against American assistance to Holden Roberto and Eduardo Mondlane. At 
least as early as mid-1963, with Kennedy still president, their efforts had produced State Department 
imposed restrictions on contacts with the Portuguese liberation groups, apparently in an effort to assuage 
Portuguese sensitivities. Circular Airgram 14448 (CA-14448), of June 24, 1963, which promulgated the 
State Department’s instructions on this subject to the American Embassies in Algiers, Conakry, Dakar, 
Dar-es-Salaam, and Leopoldville, among others, stated in part, “You should not initiate or seek out contacts 
with these nationalists. If they ask see Embassy officer, should be received by officers other than 
Ambassador, preferably at Pol Officer level.” The general instructions in the airgram were reiterated to the 
American Ambassador in Leopoldville on July 1, 1963, with the following additional advice. “Since GOP 
[Government of Portugal] has post at Leo, Port Embassy should be informed after meetings that 
nationalists seen at their request. . .If nationalists press to see Ambassador and Ambassador believes direct 
contact by him desirable, he should submit appropriate justification and request prior authorization from 
Dept. If Embassy officers meet Holden Roberto socially or otherwise, they may of course converse with 
him. Utmost discretion required in such contacts.” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963 , vol. 
XXL Africa, “Telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in the Republic of the Congo, July 1, 
1963, 567 (quotes CA-14448). The official distancing from the nationalists accelerated during the Johnson 
Administration. In March 1965, for example, Mondlane requested via the American Embassy in Dar-es- 
Salaam that the FRELIMO delegation at the UN be permitted to meet with State Department officials in 
Washington. The request was refused, and Mondlane then asked if it was now U.S. policy not to meet with 
FRELIMO representatives. The State Department’s response reiterated the limitations on contacts with the 
nationalist movements set out in CA-14448 and advised that the initial request for a meeting in Washington 



98 


in mid- 1964, although brief, had negative consequences for the Angolan liberation 
movements. Seeking to mend fences with the Portuguese who had condemned 
Adoula’s support for Roberto’s National Front, he curtailed the activities of the FNLA, 
which used the Congo as its base for raids into Angola, significantly contributing to the 
collapse of the organization as a viable military force by the end of 1964. Tshombe’s 
pro-Portuguese bias also affected the MPLA’s operations in Angola as the Zairian army 
interdicted their attempts to cross into Angola from neighboring Congo (Brazzaville), the 
base for the MPLA’s insurgency efforts against the Portuguese following its ouster from 
the Congo (Leopoldville) in 1963. 

Despite the effects of the Congo crisis on Washington’s perception of black Africa, 
one State Department official made a last effort to affect Portugal’s colonial policy. This 
final attempt came courtesy of Ambassador Anderson in Lisbon. In April 1965, 
Anderson sent the State Department a detailed proposal for offering incentives to the 
Portuguese to engage in a process leading to self-determination for its colonies. In 
August, the State Department authorized the ambassador to present his plan, as modified 
by the State Department, to the Portuguese. 

(and not in New York at the UN) appeared designed to embarrass the Department and American- 
Portuguese relations. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, vol. XXIV, Africa, “Telegram 
from the Department of State to the Embassy in Tanganyika,” March 17, 1965 [database on-line]; available 
from http://www.state.gov. 

133 Tshombe fled the country yet again in 1965. Following Mobutu’s seizure of power in November 1965, 
he tried the former prime minister in absentia and sentenced him to death. Tshombe died in an Algerian 
prison in 1967. 



99 


The approved plan was complex and wide-ranging in scope. It included detailed points 
to which the Portuguese would have to agree, for example, accelerating social, economic 
and political reforms in the African territories. Itemized points to which neighboring 
African states and other African governments would also have to agree, including their 
cessation of support for the nationalist movements, followed. The plan proposed 
American and NATO economic and technical support for Portugal to develop its African 
territories, which, after an eight- year transition period, would be allowed to choose their 
future relationship with Lisbon. As noted, “A full range of choice would be left to the 
people and would include maintenance of the present relationship with Portugal, 
autonomy within a Portuguese commonwealth, or full independence.” The objective of 
the proposal “would be a peaceful transition and creation of stable societies in the African 
territories no matter what political decisions are made by the people.” 134 

In early September 1965, Ambassador Anderson discussed his proposal with Prime 
Minister Salazar. After several more meetings over the next few months, the Portuguese 
finally rejected the plan, which they ultimately deemed “unworkable.” It was at this 
point, mid-March 1965, that Ambassador Anderson sent a telegram to Washington in 
which he expressed those sentiments noted at the beginning of this chapter. The 

134 Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 , vol. XXIV, Africa, “’’Circular Airgram from the 
Department of State to the Embassy in Portugal (CA-3167), Instructions to Lisbon,’’ August 23, 1965 
[database on-line]; available from http://www.state.gov. 



100 


ambassador essentially concluded that the Portuguese commitment to continuing their 
civilizing mission could not be influenced by American efforts, despite the broad 
interpretation of the meaning of self-determination. 

The Anderson plan was the last attempt by the United States to “seduce” Portugal out 
of Africa, and it failed largely because the Salazar regime was convinced it could 
continue its colonialism, on its own terms, in perpetuity. Assisted by arms support from 
the West Germans and French, who made no stipulations against their use in Africa, 
enjoying a sharp rise in export earnings, especially from Angolan coffee, and buoyed by 
increased foreign investment in both Portugal and the African territories, especially 
Angola again, the Portuguese government was able to increase its defense expenditures, 
providing more resources to containing the rebellion in its colonies. As assessed by the 
CIA, “In these circumstances, the US is finding it increasingly difficult to convince 
Portugal that its African policies are misguided. . .Salazar holds that the Portuguese 
provinces will soon become an enclave of stability midst a black sea of communism - 
and that the ‘correctness’ of the Portuguese position will sooner or later be evident even 
to the US.” Further, “Salazar is not convinced that the tide of African nationalism is 

1 TS 

irresistible. . .and that time will prove him right.” 


135 Central Intelligence Agency, “Special Memorandum No. 9-64, Salazar’s Current Prospects,” pp. 3,5 
[database on-line]; available from http://www.foia.cia.gov. 



101 


After the Portuguese rejection of the Anderson plan in March 1966, the ambassador 
recommended to Washington “that we let this pot simmer on the back burner until some 
significant event makes a new approach advisable.” 136 That is precisely what happened. 
The Portuguese colonial issue dropped below the foreign policy horizon as Vietnam took 
precedence over all other concerns. American policy toward southern Africa in the last 
two years of the Johnson Administration seemed to reflect the president’s increasing 
pessimism and sense of hopelessness brought on by the increasing, but still unsuccessful, 
American efforts in Vietnam. As noted by Thomas Noer, the president expressed these 
sentiments in an August 1967 meeting with members of a liberal congressional 
delegation, led by Senator Ted Kennedy, which hoped to convince Johnson to take a 
more active role in opposition to white minority rule in southern Africa. “The president 
was sympathetic but offered no new policies. He noted that the problems of southern 
Africa were ‘among the most grim and intractable in the world’ but rejected the 

137 

suggestion of using economic pressure against the white regimes.” 

Despite his humanitarian and egalitarian instincts, even if motivated in part by strong 
paternalistic sentiments, Johnson, increasingly preoccupied by the growing commitment 
in Vietnam, refused to use the full force of American power to effect change in southern 
Africa’s white-power regimes. There were reasons, or at least excuses, for this, which 

136 Samuels and Haykin, “The Anderson Plan,” 667. 

137 Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 181. 



102 


the president probably considered as valid and justified: American economic, strategic 
and military interests in the white states far outweighed those elsewhere in southern 
Africa; Portugal was a NATO ally and the possessor of the Azores; African conduct in 
the Congo throughout the early 1960s suggested that what the South Africans and 
Portuguese had been saying all along was perhaps true - that black Africans were not 
ready for, and perhaps incapable of, self-government and were especially susceptible to 
Communist influence. Reinforcing the rationale of this agenda was that fact that most 
American policy makers, with some exceptions, never seemed to be convinced that 
American actions could actually affect the racist policies of the South Africans or 
Portuguese. 

Like others before him, with the brief exception of the Kennedy era, President Johnson 
succumbed to the shortsighted interpretation of the Cold War that emphasized the 
necessity and rightness of the increasingly militarized global battle against the Soviet 
Union and its alleged “client states.” This perspective exiled black Africans, as long as 
they behaved themselves, to the periphery of American foreign policy considerations. 
Ultimately, however, it proved detrimental to the interests and concerns of black 
Africans, failed to engender African support for American policy in Africa and 
elsewhere, and was counterproductive to the American goal of containing Communism. 



103 


Nixon, Ford and Kissinger: Real-politik and “The Tilt” Policy 

President Johnson, in the face of growing American casualties in Vietnam and 
increasing domestic opposition to the war, opted not to run for the presidency in 1968. 
The newly elected Richard M. Nixon, along with his National Security Adviser, Henry 
Kissinger, brought a profound realist perspective to American foreign policy -one that 
was largely neither encumbered by idealistic rhetoric nor burdened by humanitarian 
sentiment. Their primary concern revolved around the question, “In what way does this 
event, or issue, fundamentally affect the balance of power between the United States and 
the Soviet Union?” Referred to often by Kissinger as “global equilibrium,” this question 
(and the answers thereto) dominated American foreign policy decision making during 
both the Nixon White House years and in the follow-on Ford Administration. 

The Nixon-Kissinger real-politik mind set was reflected early on in their approach to 
African issues, especially those of southern Africa, which the president and his principle 
foreign policy adviser never considered as particularly important. The high stakes game 
of detente, triangular diplomacy, and restoring American global credibility, which they 
believed had been significantly weakened by American involvement in the continuing 
and unwinnable war in Southeast Asia, topped the foreign policy agenda. With the 
exception of South Africa, a minority white regime, the Nixon-Kissinger team assessed 
the southern African nations, individually and collectively, as possessing little power or 



104 


influence in international affairs. Their evaluation determined the low-priority they 
assigned to the region. Nixon concisely, if not nicely, summed up this perspective on the 
importance of black Africa in a phone call he made to the sometimes-insecure Henry 
Kissinger in his first term. The conversation was intended to soothe the latter’s jealousy 
at positive press coverage Secretary of State Rogers had received for a recent trip to 
Africa: ‘Henry, let’s leave the niggers to Bill and we’ll take care of the rest of the 
world.’” 138 

As their “minimalist attention” approach to southern Africa specifically concerned 

Portugal, they did not attempt to resolve the dilemma presented by the continued 

existence of the Portuguese empire as much as they decided to accommodate it. This turn 

toward Portugal, replicated in the attitude toward the white regimes in South Africa and 

Rhodesia, was evident in the major interdepartmental study conducted from April to 

December 1969 on American foreign policy in southern Africa. Entitled “Study in 

Response to National Security Study Memorandum 39: Southern Africa,” the 

interagency assessment provided the president with six options on the future direction of 

United States policy in the region. In January 1970, Kissinger recommended that the 

president approve Option Two, the so-called “tar baby” or “tilt” option. The premises 

and recommendations of this option, usually referred to in public as the 

138 The direct quote attributed to Nixon is from Seymour M. Hersh, “The Price of Power: Kissinger, Nixon, 
and Chile ” Atlantic Monthly, December 1982, 35. 



105 


“Communication” policy, subsequently provided the basis for American foreign policy in 
southern Africa, at least until Kissinger’s historic visit to the region in the spring of 
1976. 139 

Citing the memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon which forwarded the results of the 
study (referred to simply as NSSM 39), Gerald Bender tells us, “Kissinger presented 
NSSM 39 to President Nixon in early January 1970 with the recommendation that the 
U.S. adopt a ‘general posture. . .along the lines of option two’ which called for the United 
States to ‘maintain public opposition to racial repression, but relax political isolation and 
economic restrictions on the white states.’” 140 

Briefly stated, the major assumption behind the Option Two policy was predicated 
upon the belief that the white-controlled regimes in central and southern Africa (the 
Portuguese in their colonies and the minority governments in Rhodesia and South Africa) 
had staying power, and that the black nationalist movements, lacking resolve, could not 

139 No one in the Nixon Administration has ever officially admitted that the president had chosen Option 
Two from the policy review. However, we now know from insiders’ accounts that Kissinger sent him the 
decision memorandum recommending that option, and that the ensuing American actions generally 
followed the option’s recommended course of action. Roger Morris, Kissinger’s assistant on African 
affairs on the National Security Council during Nixon’s first term, was a principle architect of the policy 
study and detailed the NSSM 39 process from start to finish in his memoir. Uncertain Greatness: Henry 
Kissinger and American Policy (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1977). He has noted that 
American policy in southern Africa in the wake of NSSM 39 flowed from the assumptions and 
recommended actions contained in Option Two, although, as he observed, the option merely put into print 
what had largely been unwritten American policy in southern Africa since the Johnson era. Ibid., 1 19. 

140 Gerald Bender, “Kissinger in Angola: Anatomy of Failure,’’ in American Policy in Southern Africa: 

The Stakes and the Stance, ed. Rene Lemarchand (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1978), 
68. Bender’s source is “Memorandum (attached to NSSM 39) from Henry A. Kissinger to Richard M. 
Nixon, Subject: Policy Decisions on Southern Africa,” January 2, 1970, Tab A. 



106 


be militarily successful in defeating them . 141 The policy accepted change as inevitable, 
but emphasized that the goal was evolutionary, peaceful reform. This could only come 
about through the whites, influenced by subtle American pressures. Black violence could 
never achieve majority rule and would, instead, lead to increased chaos, instability and 

142 

opportunities for Communist penetration. 


141 Apparently, neither NSSM 39’s authors, nor the final decision makers, most notably Nixon and 
Kissinger, ever questioned the resolve of the white regimes, calculating that their conventional military 
superiority and determination to hold the line could contain, if not defeat, their respective insurgencies. 

The selection of the Tar Baby Option was also influenced by the continuing belief that the white regimes 
offered stability and a bulwark against Soviet influence in southern Africa and the best hope for preserving 
American economic, strategic and military stakes in the region, especially in South Africa. As noted in an 
Op-Ed by Graham Hovey, a member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times in the 1970s, Option 
Two was largely influenced by “our own racism and lingering notions of ‘white supremacy’; business 
investments in South Africa, Rhodesia and Angola; obsessive hostility for any program that sounded like 
Communism; obsessive concern for ‘stability’ and benevolence toward regimes, black or white, that 
promised it.” Graham Hovey, “Bankruptcy on Africa,” New York Times, March 2, 1976, 29. 

142 The authors of the policy study hypothesized “Peaceful evolution is the only avenue to change because 
(a) black violence only produces internal reaction, and (b) military realities rule out a black victory at any 
stage. Moreover, there are reasons to question the depth and permanence of black resolve.” National 
Security Council, Interdepartmental Group for Africa, “Study in Response to National Security Study 
Memorandum 39: Southern Africa” December 9, 1969, p. 5 {database on-line}; available from Digital 
National Security Archive. This comment is puzzling at best, and exceptionally myopic at worst, in light of 
the American military’s inability to defeat the insurgency in South Vietnam. The actual text of Option Two 
of NSSM 39 reads, in part, as follows: “Premise: The whites are here to stay and the only way that 
constructive change can come about is through them. There is no hope for the blacks to gain the political 
rights they seek through violence, which will only lead to chaos and increased opportunities for the 
communists. We can, by selective relaxation of our stance towards the white regimes, encourage some 
modification of their current racial and colonial policies and through more substantial economic assistance 
to the black states (a total of about $5 m annually in technical assistance to the black states) help to draw 
the two groups together and exert some influence on both for peaceful change. General Posture: We 
would maintain public opposition to racial repression but relax political isolation and economic restrictions 
on the white states.... This option accepts, at least over a 3-to-5-year period, the prospect of unrequited US 
initiatives toward the whites and some opposition from the blacks in order to develop an atmosphere 
conducive to change in white attitudes through persuasion and erosion.” “Text of Option 2 of NSSM 39,” 
in Africa Contemporary Record, Annual Survey and Documents, 1974-1975 (NY: Africana Publishing 
Company, 1975, A99-A100. 



107 


On paper and in rhetoric, Option Two was not a major break with the de facto 
American policy toward southern Africa that had been practiced since the later years of 
the Johnson administration. As previously discussed, with the exception of Rhodesia, 
where American policy generally followed that of the British, President Johnson refused 
to consider a tougher stance against South Africa and Portugal, including the imposition 
of economic sanctions . 143 Like the non-committal, middle-road policy of the late 
Johnson White House years, which tried to partially please all the stakeholders in the 
issue of white minority rule, but really pleased no one at all, the ostensible goal of 
American policy under Option Two was to effect a balance between American economic, 
political and strategic interests in the region, none of which were deemed vital, and a 
professed commitment to gradual reform of the white-controlled system. 

With Option Two, however, came the notion that such reform did not necessarily 
include majority rule as an objective. In fact, Option Two’s language implied that 
Washington acceded to continuing minority rule. “To encourage this change in white 
attitudes, we would indicate our willingness to accept political arrangements short of 


143 As noted by Thomas Noer, the Johnson Administration opted for increased communications and dialog 
with the white regimes hoping thereby to promote gradual reform. Noer remarks, “Instead of sanctions, the 
administration renewed its call for negotiations and gradual reform.” US ambassador to the UN, Arthur 
Goldberg, who replaced Adlai Stevenson in 1965, “explained that Washington was dedicated to ‘a genuine 
dialog on the basis of self-determination’ in southern Africa,’ as ‘no differences can be solved without 
contact, discussion, or negotiations.’” Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 181. Increased 
communications and dialog with the white regimes in southern Africa was a central tenet of Option Two, 
and “communications” even became the quasi-official title of the policy. 



108 


guaranteed progress toward majority rule, provided that they assure broadened political 
participation in some form by the whole population.” 144 

To achieve the balance between protection of American materialistic interests, which 
were largely tied to the white regimes, and a commitment to gradual reform, Option Two 
called for a less dogmatic approach to the issues associated with the international 
condemnation of Pretoria and Lisbon, a revitalized effort to establish a constructive 
dialog with the white minority regimes, an increase in economic aid to selective (and 
moderate) black states, and an effort to encourage moderation by all parties to the 
struggles then on-going in southern Africa. 145 

The authors of NSSM 39 admitted that striking the balance between the two desired 
objectives would be formidable if not contradictory at times. 146 With perfect twenty- 


144 Africa Contemporary Record , “Text of Option Two of NSSM 39,” A100. Option Two, then, 
substantially diverged from the idea of self-determination as defined during both the Kennedy and Johnson 
Administrations. That concept, while not necessarily equating to full independence, had still implied a one- 
man, one-vote political system. 

145 As previously noted, the public name for the Option Two policy, whose exact contents were unknown 
until its details began to leak in 1972, was the “Communication” policy, coined by Nixon’s first Assistant 
Secretary of State for African Affairs, David Newsom. As reported by the journal Africa, “During a 
September 1970 speech in Chicago, Assistant Secretary Newsom offered the clearest description to that 
time of the administration’s new Africa policy, labeling it communication. ‘Communication does not mean 
acceptance,’ he said. ‘It means, in a sense, a greater challenge than isolation.’ Further, he noted, ‘it could 
mean that greater hope could be given to both Blacks and Whites who seek another way [than violence].’” 
“Kissinger’s Secret Paper,” Africa, no. 40 (December 1974): 24. 

146 “Study in Response to National Security Study Memorandum 39: Southern Africa,” 14. As Option 
Two specifically applied to American-Portuguese relations, Gerald Bender has commented that not only 
were the goals contradictory, but also they were hypocritical, “because no one honestly believed that 
Salazar or Caetano would be convinced through “communication” of the need for self-determination in the 
colonies. In fact, the United States never moved the Portuguese an inch closer to granting independence to 



109 


twenty hindsight, Roger Morris, Kissinger’s National Security Council southern Africa 
expert, recognized the difficulty of carrying out the new policy with its inherent conflict 
of interests. He observed that the only result of the adoption of Option Two “would be to 
mire the United States deeper on the side of the oppressors. . .In retrospect, it was a 
disaster, naive in concept, practically impossible for the government to execute, and thus 
a ready cover for pursuing the most reactionary and short-sighted U.S. interests in the 
region.” 147 

Morris’ evaluation, although given retrospectively, was correct. The actions taken 
after Option Two’s adoption manifested a distinct tilt toward the white minority regimes 
(hence one of the option’s nicknames). As assessed by Anthony Lake, its 
implementation represented “a fundamental shift in policy.” Despite increased aid of 
$5 million to moderate black states in the region, the United States significantly reduced 
overt pressure on Portugal and South Africa in such international arenas as the United 
Nations, where the American representative consistently abstained from, or vetoed, 


Angola, Mozambique, or Guinea-Bissau. Furthermore, the policy of Communication did not include 
relations with the nationalist movements... who were generally ignored so as not to offend the Portuguese.” 
Bender, “Kissinger in Angola,” 69. 

147 Morris, Uncertain Greatness, 111. 

148 Anthony Lake, The “Tar Baby” Option: American Policy Toward Southern Rhodesia (New York: 
Columbia University Press, 1976), 123. Anthony Lake spent nearly twenty years as a Foreign Service 
Officer in the State Department, including head of the Policy Planning Staff during the Carter 
Administration. He briefly served as an aide to Henry Kissinger, from 1969 to 1970, but resigned that 
position after the American extension of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. Later, he became a foreign 
policy advisor to candidate Bill Clinton and then served as Clinton’s first National Security Advisor. 



110 


condemnations of both. Perhaps the most visible manifestation of the new policy 
occurred with Nixon’s 1971 approval of the Byrd Amendment. This sanctions-busting 
measure allowed for the unrestricted importation of chromium ore by American 
companies, as well as seventy-one other strategic and critical materials, thirteen from 
Rhodesia. The action was in direct violation of UN sanctions, which the United States 
had supported, generally better than most other nations, since their imposition in 1966. 

The history of the Byrd Amendment is detailed in Lake’s excellent study. The author 
examines in detail the forces that came together to support or oppose the amendment, the 
major arguments for each position on the amendment, and the consequences to American 
policy in southern Africa, and generally in the Third World, as a result of the American 
violation of the sanctions. 149 The study crystallizes some of the priorities that shaped 
decision-making in the Nixon White House as they related to American policies toward 


149 Briefly, the momentum for the Byrd Amendment gained steam after the Nixon Administration approved 
a one-time importation of Rhodesian chrome in 1970, justifying the action on the questionable premise that 
the chrome had been purchased before the 1966 sanctions. In 1971, as the Senate debated the amendment. 
The Nixon Administration voiced its opposition to the amendment, but did not lobby vigorously against it. 
Instead, it permitted a tightly leashed State Department, most notably the Assistant Secretary of State for 
African Affairs, David Newsom, to lead what little opposition the Executive Department decided to muster. 
The White House’s less-than-enthusiastic opposition to Byrd’s sanction-busting measure, considered by 
both Nixon and Kissinger of minor importance, enhanced the power of those business interests lobbying for 
the amendment, which in the end, as noted by Lake, proved to be the deciding factor in the amendment’s 
passage. “The ambivalence of the administration helped ensure Byrd’s victory. The ambivalence was 
important in itself; and more, it allowed the corporate lobbyists who supported Byrd’s efforts to be the most 
potent outside force influencing the Congress - as Senator Humphrey has put it, in ‘twisting public policy 
for private interests.’” Ibid., 226. To further ensure its passage, the pro-Byrd Amendment faction in the 
Senate made sure the amendment was attached to the Military Procurement Act of 1971, which the 
Administration supported. After its approval by Congress, Nixon, without comment, signed it into law on 
November 17, 1971. 



Ill 


the minority white regimes in sub-Saharan Africa. It reveals that economic interests, in 
this case in the form of the American ferrochrome industry, cloaked in the thinly veiled 
argument that continued access to Rhodesian chrome was a vital national security 
interest, were judged by both the Congress and the Executive Branch to be more 
important than adhering to international law. 150 

The adoption of Option Two as the new American policy toward southern Africa 
clearly facilitated the Byrd Amendment’s passage, as the White House opposed it in 
words but not in actions, a decision consistent with the white minority friendly aspects of 
the “Communications” policy. As Lake noted, “‘Communication’ had become, by late 
1970, a conceptual cover for a series of moves that favored the Smith regime.” 151 


150 The national security argument, as advanced by Senator Harry F. Byrd (Ind.,VA) and his supporters, 
postulated that since the Soviet Union was the second major producer and exporter of chrome, it was 
reasonable and prudent for the United States to decrease its “unhealthy” dependence on the Communist 
state by allowing the American ferrochrome industry to import, once again, Rhodesian chrome. Ibid., 
passim. With the advent of detente and its encouragement of expanded trade with the Soviet Union, the 
bogus national security argument lost its clout, but efforts to repeal the amendment in 1973-1975 were 
unsuccessful. 

151 Ibid., 156. There were, however, unfavorable consequences of its passage. Among other things, the 
Byrd Amendment aligned the United States with South Africa and Portugal in official violation of UN 
sanctions. And, in an ironic twist, as explained by Lake, an unintended effect of the amendment was its 
negative consequences for the American ferrochrome industry, which used imported chrome ore, along 
with iron ore, to manufacture a variety of steel alloys. “The industry’s lobbyist on Capitol Hill were 
successful, but their success had unintended results. Far from saving jobs and increasing production in an 
already faltering industry, the Amendment has instead accelerated the industry’s decline; by the end of 
1973, two of the four major domestic producers had decided to go out of the ferrochrome business. The 
Amendment was broadly worded. ..this wording would permit the import not just of Rhodesian chrome, but 
also of a competitive flood of low-cost ferrochrome itself.” Ibid., 240-241. 



112 


The “Communication” policy also overtly favored South Africa and Portugal. As a 
result of Option Two, The Nixon Administration, over the objections of the State 
Department, introduced flexibility into the American arms embargo policy against both. 
In January 1970, immediately following the adoption of the new policy, the president 
approved the sale of non-lethal equipment that had dual civilian and military use (such as 
transport aircraft and helicopters), in effect exempting such dual-use equipment from the 
embargo. ~ As reported by author and journalist Bruce Oudes, the effects of Nixon’s 
dual-use decision were immediate. Since 1970, “U.S. exports to South Africa, 
particularly aircraft, have ballooned to well beyond $1 billion annually. South Africa, 
which could now buy types of aircraft forbidden by the Johnson administration, imported 
a total of $151 million in U.S. aircraft in 1971 and 1972 as compared with an earlier five- 
year (1966 through 1970) import total of $124 million in U.S. planes.” 153 

A substantive manifestation of the new policy, as it applied specifically to Portugal, 
occurred with the early 1972 renewal of the long-expired lease of the Lajes air base in the 
Azores. According to Terence Smith of the New York Times , as part of the deal, the 
American side “agreed to authorize Export- Import Bank loans to Portugal up to $400- 
million, a total equivalent to four times all the ExImBank’s assistance to Portugal since 

152 “National Security Decision Memorandum 38 (NSDM 38): United States Policy Toward Southern 
Africa,” January 28, 1970, Box H-213, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD. 

153 Bruce Oudes, “South Africa, U.S. Secrets,” Baltimore Sun, February 22, 1976. 



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1946. 154 In concert with the relaxation of the military embargo against Lisbon, the Nixon 
Administration promptly approved the sale of two Boeing 707 airliners (previously 
banned) directly to the Portuguese government - aircraft that were probably used to 
transport Portuguese troops to the African territories. 155 

Option Two also effected American relations with the liberation movements in 
Portugal’s African territories. Government officials were directed to further distance 
themselves from official contact with the respective movements, although low-level 
contacts with representatives of the liberations groups were still permitted. Further, the 
CIA closed its small stations in Luanda, Angola, and Lourenco Marques, Mozambique. 
Thereafter, the Agency relied on the Portuguese intelligence service, the large CIA 
station in Kinshasa and its client, Holden Roberto, and probably also the South African 
intelligence service, Bureau of State Security (BOSS), for information on the colonial 
insurgencies. 156 Although later explained by then Director of Central Intelligence, 


154 Terrence Smith, “U.S. Widens Ties to African Whites, New York Times , April 2, 1972, 14. Smith was 
the first individual to sniff out the details of the new policy, which was discussed, debated, drafted and 
signed in complete secrecy. His lengthy article discusses the concrete measures taken by the Nixon 
Administration to expand its contacts and improve its relations with the white regimes in southern Africa 
following the adoption of Option Two. 

155 Ibid. 

156 The South African government created BOSS on May 1, 1969, shortly after the interdepartmental task 
force on Africa began its work on drafting the response to NSSM 39. Author and journalist, Stephen 
Talbot, has detailed the close association among the intelligence services of the United States, South 
Africa, and Portugal in “The CIA and BOSS: Thick as Thieves,” in Dirty Work 2: The CIA in Africa, eds. 
Ellen, Ray, William Schaap, and Karl Van Meter (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1979), 266-275. Talbot 
claims that NSSM 39 “was based, in part, on CIA reports which were, in turn, heavily reliant on data 
provided by BOSS and the Portuguese secret police, PIDE.” Ibid., 267. 



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Richard Helms, as an economic measure, it appears more than coincidental that this 
action came nearly simultaneously with President Nixon’s early January 1970 decision 
on Option Two. 

Early in the Nixon Administration, even as NSSM 39 was being drafted, the United 
States effectively ended its support for the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique 
(FRELIMO). This occurred after Eduardo Mondlane’s assassination in 1969 and severed 
a relationship that dated back to the earliest years of the Kennedy Administration when 
the movement began receiving clandestine governmental support and overt support 
through the Ford Foundation. The American government also officially shunned the 
unified Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde’s liberation movement, the African Party for the 
Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC). As reported in the journal 
Africa , for example, “In 1972, Kissinger and his aides recoiled from a proposal that they 
meet secretly with the late Amilcar Cabral during his U.S. visit. That coolness continued 
even after the PAIGC became the widely-recognized government of Guinea Bissau.” In 
May 1974, the same article tells us that the United States cast the only vote against 
Guinea-Bissau’s admission to the UN’s World Health Organization and was one of the 


157 Kenneth Maxwell, “The Legacy of Decolonization,” in Regional Conflict and U.S. Policy: Angola and 
Mozambique , ed. Richard J. Bloomfield (Algonac, MI: Reference Publications, Ind., 1988), 17. 



115 


last nations to recognize the new government following Portugal’s granting of 
independence. 158 

In Angola, Option Two translated into an official ratcheting down of relations with, 
and support for, Holden Roberto, leader of the FNLA. As previously discussed, that 
connection extended back to at least the early years of the Kennedy Administration. At 
that time, Roberto’s movement, then known as the Union of the People’s of Angola 
(UPA), and subsequently as the Revolutionary Government of Angola in Exile (GRAE), 
was the only recognized Angolan nationalist movement, first by the Congo 
(Leopoldville-Kinshasa) and several other African counties, and then by the OAU in 
1963. According to various sources, as a result of the Nixon Administration’s new ‘tilt’ 
policy, Roberto still continued to receive $10,000 per year as a retainer fee to provide 
intelligence on Angola, but the FNLA, as a party to the conflict in Angola, was not to 
receive any American support. 159 


158 “Kissinger’s Secret Paper,” Africa, no. 40 (December 1974), 24. Cabral was assassinated in 1973. 

159 See, for example, the previously cited Gelb article, “U.S., Soviets, China Reported Aiding Portugal, 
Angola,” 22, and Hersh, “Early Angola Aid by U.S. Reported,” 14. Gerald Bender makes the interesting 
point that the cutback in American support for Roberto after the adoption of Option Two was most 
significant in that it represented a change from “program assistance” to “personal assistance,” terminology 
he defined thusly: “Program assistance is the term used when the CIA gives money to a party or 
organization to help it implement its program; this term is distinguished from ‘personal assistance’ when 
money is given to an individual for information about the program and activities of a given party or 
organization. Thus, when the CIA switched from program assistance to the FNLA to personal assistance 
for Holden Roberto in 1970, it amounted to giving Roberto money for information about the activities of 
the FNLA to defeat the Portuguese rather than money to actually help him carry out his program of ending 
the Portuguese colonization of Angola.” Bender, “Kissinger in Angola,” footnote 11, 131. 



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A series of events in the spring of 1974, however, shook Lisbon and the Lusitanian 
empire. In April, in part of as a result of the never-ending African wars, a small, 
radicalized group of mostly junior officers, calling themselves the Armed Forces 
Movement (MFA) overthrew Portugal’s government. Shortly thereafter, the MFA’s 
leadership declared its intention to grant independence to Portugal’s African colonies. 

The beginning of decolonization negotiations with Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique 
quickly followed the announcement. However, Angola’s destiny, which will be 
discussed later, became caught up in Lisbon’s internal political struggles, a situation that 
was further exacerbated by conflict among Angola’s three liberation movements. For 
several months after the April coup, Lisbon and its richest and largest colony traveled an 
uncertain road. 

The administration’s Option Two policy had been in effect for four years as these 
events quickly unfolded, and the tilt toward the white regimes was plainly obvious. 
However, the policy’s major assumption that “the whites are here to stay,” was clearly no 
longer applicable to the Portuguese situation - these “whites” were planning to leave. 
Portugal’s decolonization also meant that South Africa’s white-controlled buffer, Angola 
and Mozambique, would eventually be in the hands of black Africans, presenting an 
entirely new challenge to the apartheid regime (as well as Rhodesia). 



117 


Despite all this, Nixon’s foreign policy cadre, most notably Henry Kissinger, failed to 
grasp, or simply ignored, the impact of these changes on American policy in the region. 
The State Department reviewed Option Two several times, as will be discussed, but 
concluded that it had served American interests well and would continue to do so. That 
conclusion proved to be woefully incorrect. 

Conclusion 

Throughout most of the Cold War era, up to and including the American involvement 
in Angola in the mid-1970s, Washington’s policies usually aided and abetted the efforts 
of the Western European nations to hold on to their overseas empires in Africa, either 
directly through colonialism, or indirectly via neo-colonialism. This policy stemmed 
from the belief that the best way to protect American interests was to support the status 
quo. Those interests remained fairly constant throughout this era. They included the 
inter-related, security-centered concerns of solidifying American ties with its NATO 
allies through support for their African policies, ensuring American access to southern 
Africa’s strategic resources, and denying Communist penetration. 

During the same time frame, the United States, while sometimes criticizing South 
African apartheid, generally adopted policies that also supported the status quo there, 
while usually following the British line on Rhodesia. In 1971, however, the United 
States broke with British and international policy by enacting the Byrd Amendment. This 



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sanctions-busting measure allowed American companies to import a variety of Rhodesian 
metals, including chrome. 

The most notable exception to the historical pattern of support for the West European’s 
policies in Africa occurred during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. His administration 
challenged colonialism and neo-colonialism, the latter most importantly in the American 
support for UN efforts to end the Belgian- supported Katangan rebellion and to reunite the 
Congo. The Afro-centric disposition of some of Kennedy’s important advisors also led 
to several sincere, if unsuccessful, attempts to economically seduce Portugal into granting 
self-determination to its colonies. Still, this new approach to African-American relations 
gradually weakened and gave way, once again, to the imperatives of the Cold War, 
including the importance of the NATO alliance to Western security. The approaching 
expiration deadline for the American lease of military facilities on the Portuguese Azores 
Islands played a key role in the Kennedy Administration’s softened attitude toward 
Portugal and her colonies, beginning in mid- 1962. 

Early in the Johnson Administration, before the exigencies of the escalating 
commitment to South Vietnam and with the Kennedy Africanists still in government, 
although with rapidly declining influence, American policy seemed to continue on the 
course set by Kennedy, at least as it pertained to Portugal. In 1965, the United States 
tried, yet again unsuccessfully, to persuade the Lisbon government, with promises of 



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economic rewards, to establish a timetable for self-determination for its colonies. This 
was the last of such attempts. In 1966, both Williams and Stevenson left government 
service. With them went the tattered remains of the American support for African 
nationalism and Portuguese decolonization. Thereafter, President Johnson accepted, even 
accommodated, Portuguese colonialism. His policy toward South Africa was no less 
conciliatory. 

President Nixon and his chief foreign policy advisor, Henry Kissinger, entered the 
White House with little or no pretense of trying to change the world through moral 
suasion. For Kissinger, that was “missionary work.” Their new policy toward southern 
Africa, and the actions that ensued from that policy, amply demonstrated their rejection 
of the traditional idealistic strand in the fabric of American foreign policy. 160 They did, 
however, aspire to refashioning the international environment into one more conducive to 
American interests through policies based on a real-politik perspective and “to shape 
events in the light of our own purposes.” 161 How Nixon and Kissinger, and in 1974, Ford 
and Kissinger, went about the task, and how their efforts were adversely affected by an 


160 Historian Robert L Beisner has closely analyzed the “historical” Henry Kissinger. Among other things, 
Beisner notes that Kissinger’s rejection of traditional American ideals, such as justice, freedom and human 
rights, and his and Nixon’s desire “to purge our foreign policy of all sentimentality,” foreclosed long-term 
support for his general policies, even if early on in his White House years he ranked very high in popularity 
polls. Beisner concludes, “Americans, still believing in a national mission, did not warm to his realpolitik. 
Their beliefs and values are the “necessity” of the American experience to which Kissinger failed to 
accommodate himself.” Robert L. Beisner, “History and Henry Kissinger,” Diplomatic History 14, no. 4 
(Fall 1990): 526. 



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unexpected leftist coup in Portugal and the subsequent decolonization of its African 
territories - events which ultimately led to the ill-advised covert American intervention in 
Angola in 1975 - are the subjects of succeeding chapters. 


161 


Henry Kissinger, White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1979), 683. 



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CHAPTER 2 

HENRY KISSINGER, GLOBAL ARCHITECT 

“It is extremely in our interest, 1 believe, 
to keep the present world going as long as possible. ” 

Henry Kissinger 162 

When he became president in January 1969, Richard Nixon was determined to 
consolidate all foreign policy decision making in the White House so that he, along with 
the man he chose as his national security affairs adviser, Henry Kissinger, could go about 
recasting global affairs along lines more favorable to American leadership and security 
interests. To this end, the new president would come to increasingly rely on Kissinger, 
who shared the president’s viewpoint on the lack of creativity and boldness in 
Washington’s official foreign policy establishment, as his primary adviser. In effect, the 
Nixon-Kis singer team consigned the president’s first Secretaries of State and Defense, 
William Rogers and Melvin Laird, along with the bureaucracies they headed, to minor 
roles in American diplomacy. 

This chapter, which is largely based on a synthesis of secondary sources, focuses on 
three related issues. I will first discuss Henry Kissinger’s effort to enhance his role in 


162 William Burr, ed.. The Kissinger Transcripts: The Top Secret Talks with Beijing and Moscow (New 
York: The New Press, 1998), 1. The chapters in this book include transcripts of various Kissinger’s 
memoranda of conversations from the Winston Lord Policy Planning Staff files at the National Archives, as 
well as additional transcripts of Kissinger’s conversations with Soviet leaders between 1974 and 1976, 
which the State Department released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request from William Burr. 



122 


foreign policy at the expense of the official Washington foreign policy establishment. 
Using four crises, all of which occurred in the second year of the Nixon presidency, I will 
explain how Kissinger was able to effect his rise to the pinnacle of American diplomacy. 
These four events began with the Cambodian invasion in the spring of 1970 and extended 
into the summer and fall of that year with the crises in Jordan, Cuba and Chile. They 
were important junctures in Kissinger’s efforts to cement his relationship with the 
president and increase his influence and authority, while simultaneously weakening the 
national security roles of his chief bureaucratic rivals, Rogers and Laird. 

Secondly, a review of the four crises of 1970, and how the increasingly close Nixon- 
Kissinger partnership dealt with them, will also provide important insights to their shared 
geo-strategic perspective and the substance and style of their decision-making process. 
The lessons learned from the outcome of these crises provided important guidelines for 
the president and his global architect in their future foreign policy endeavors. 

Finally, I will also briefly discuss the White House’s efforts to restructure the global 
environment, through triangular diplomacy, in such a way that American credibility and 
leadership would be sustained. Those efforts, however, excluded a large part of the 
world that Kissinger liked to refer to as “the South.” From the Nixon-Kissinger real- 
politik perspective, the North-South dimensions of international politics were 
unimportant and only deserved attention if and when they threatened to disrupt the 



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singularly important East-West dynamic. As a result of this perspective, American policy 
toward sub-Saharan Africa, as set forth in Option Two, was essentially an uniformed, or 
misinformed, policy of indifference, most notably toward the region’s national liberation 
movements. It would have consequences for how the United States behaved toward 
Portugal’s decolonization efforts. 

After President Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, as a result of Watergate, 

President Ford asked Henry Kissinger to stay on as both national security adviser and 
secretary of state. He would carry his experiences and the lessons he extracted from the 
Nixon years, including his often heavy-handed, confrontational tendencies, into the Ford 
White House. They would affect how he and his new president viewed and handled the 
Portuguese and related Angolan crises of 1974-1975. 

The Rise of Henry Kissinger 

Historian William Burr, in his introduction to The Kissinger Transcripts , noted that 
when Henry Kissinger became President Nixon’s national security affairs assistant in 
1969, he “worried that the United States was losing clout in world affairs after a long 
stretch of supremacy and saw new circumstances - for example, a more independent 
Europe, the growing autonomy of Third World nations, and U.S. -Soviet nuclear parity - 
as forces that were making American power ‘irrelevant.’” 163 Kissinger’s uneasiness with 


163 


Ibid. 



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the perceived decline in American power was directly related to the then ongoing war in 
Vietnam. 

That long conflict continued to sap American economic, political and military strength 
and, as both Nixon and Kissinger believed, to undermine the United States’ global 
credibility and leadership of the Western Alliance. While meeting in secret with a North 
Vietnamese delegation in Paris in August 1969, Kissinger explained the significance of a 
satisfactory resolution of the war to the future global role of the United States. He told 
the French foreign minister, “In the conduct of long-range American policy throughout 
the world, it was important that we not be confounded by a fifth-rate agricultural 
power. . .It was unthinkable for a major power like the United States to allow itself to be 
destroyed politically by North Vietnam.” 164 Nixon echoed this conviction when he 
subsequently addressed the nation in early November. The president reiterated his 
position that a quick withdrawal from South Vietnam would result in a disaster for both 
that nation and the United States. Moreover, such a withdrawal would be seen as a 


164 “Henry Kissinger and Maurice Schumann, Memorandum of Conversation,” August 4, 1969; quoted in 
Robert Dallek, Partners in Power: Nixon and Kissinger (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007), 

152. In 1969, at least, a “satisfactory” conclusion to the war, from Nixon and Kissinger’s perspective, 
included an agreement ensuring at least the short-term independence of the Saigon government and 
avoiding a military defeat that, as Dallek notes, would diminish “American sacrifices in blood and treasure” 
and undermine “its international credibility.” Ibid., 168. 



125 


defeat, and “would result in a collapse of confidence in American leadership. . .throughout 
the world.” 165 

Over the next five years, President Nixon and his principal foreign policy architect, 
Henry Kissinger, would shape the international environment along lines more favorable 
to American interests and leadership. As observed by Burr, by late 1973, Kissinger, now 
also Secretary of State, “would find international conditions far more satisfactory. . .he 
mused that it would be possible to conceive of ‘different worlds in which we have to live’ 
where power alignments were less acceptable to the United States. He thought that 
current alignments were then altogether favorable. Hence, Kissinger concluded, ‘It is 
extremely in our interest, I believe, to keep the present world going as long as 
possible.’” 166 

The formidable task of constructing a more-accommodating world environment 
simultaneously involved Kissinger’s largely successful efforts to transform his national 
security adviser role into a more authoritative position - one in which his personal 
leadership of American diplomacy would be subject to veto only by the man in the Oval 
Office. This meant, among other things, weakening the influence of the Secretary of 
State, William P. Rogers, and the Secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird, and circumventing 
the cumbersome processes and inertia of the Washington bureaucracy, especially that of 

165 Ibid., 164. 

166 Burr, The Kissinger Transcripts, 1. 



126 


the State and Defense Departments. 167 To accomplish these objectives, Kissinger needed 
the opportunity to ingratiate himself with the president and to validate his foreign policy 
credentials with a man who considered his own adroitness in world affairs as 
considerable. 

Such opportunities were rare in the first fifteen month of Nixon’s first term. With the 
exception of Middle East diplomacy, which the president left to Secretary of State 
Rogers, he was slow to relax his grip on the diplomatic helm. In early 1969, however, 
Kissinger was successful in establishing a working rapport with the president, which 
would serve him well later on. This occurred during Nixon’s first visit to Europe in 
February, as recounted by Walter Isaacson. “For Kissinger, the significance of the 
European trip had less to do with its substance than the chance to define his own role. A 
month or so into the job, he had not yet formed a personal relationship with the president. 
They communicated mainly in memos and stilted meetings. With his desire to wrest 


167 In-depth analyses of Nixon and Kissinger’s modus operandi, especially their efforts to by-pass the 
Washington foreign policy bureaucracy, their penchant for secrecy, and their desire to consolidate all 
decision making processes in the White House are found in Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger , Chapter 3, 
“1968,” passim; Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 
especially Chapter 10, “Kissinger’s Empire,” 183-211; Jussi Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect: Henry 
Kissinger and American Foreign Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), passim; Seymour 
M. Hersh, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House (New York: Summit Books, 1983), 
especially Chapter 2, “A New NSC System,” 25-45;” Jussi Hanhimaki, “ ‘Dr. Kissinger’ or ‘Mr. Henry’? 
Kissingerology, Thirty Years and Counting,” Diplomatic History 27, no. 5 (November 2003): 637-675; 
Robert Beisner, “History and Henry Kissinger,” Diplomatic History 14, no. 4 (Fall 1990): 511-527. 



127 


control from the bureaucracy, Kissinger spent much of the trip trying to establish his 
authority.” 

On the flight to Europe, Kissinger bumped his long-time colleague and just as often 
rival, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, from Air Force One under the pretext that he didn’t “think 
there should be too many Jews around.” Kissinger had appointed Sonnenfeldt to his 
National Security Council staff as the European and Soviet expert and valued his abilities 
as well as his loyalty. Still, as Isaacson relates, “Kissinger’s condescending treatment of 
Sonnenfeldt reflected Kissinger’s desire to be the only foreign policy staffer to have 
direct contact with the president.” In the end, Isaacson concludes, “The trip was an 
enormous boost for Kissinger,” especially for the formation of the professionally close, 
but curious, relationship between Nixon and Kissinger that would help “sustain their 
turbulent partnership for more than five years .” 168 

Despite Kissinger’s early success in gaining the president’s ear, Nixon continued to 
dominate the diplomatic agenda and to set the priorities. Initially, his number one 
priority was finding a resolution to the war in Southeast Asia, the thorn in his side that 
affected his other top priorities: improving relations with the Soviet Union and China, 
and using both as leverage against the other, or as it came to be known, triangular 
diplomacy. 

168 


Isaacson, Kissinger , 170-171. 



128 


Throughout 1969 and 1970, however, progress on all three issues was excruciatingly 
slow. The North Vietnamese remained largely intransigent, agreeing only to continue to 
talk to the Americans. The Soviet Union balked at Washington’s linking of improved 
relations with the United States, including arms control talks, with Soviet pressure on 
Hanoi. Nixon relaxed trade restrictions on China, reduced the presence of American 
naval combatants in the Taiwan Strait, and signaled Beijing, via Romania, that the United 
States was interested in serious talks. Despite these gestures, there were no important 
breakthroughs in the American-Chinese relationship. 169 

In sum, Kissinger’s opportunity to stake a claim to progress on all three fronts did not 
materialize during the early months of the Nixon White House. His “defining” 
achievements - detente with the Soviet Union, the opening to China, and the American- 
North Vietnamese peace treaty, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize - were still in 
the future. During the early White House years, then, to enhance his diplomatic 
credentials and further strengthen his position with the president he would have to look 
elsewhere. 

The Cambodian crisis of the spring of 1970 presented Kissinger with that “elsewhere” 
opportunity. In April 1970, President Nixon decided to extend the ground war in South 

169 According to Dallek, while Nixon and Kissinger desired “serious talks” with the Chinese, they were 
uncertain if such actions at the time “would have a useful impact on Moscow.” Hence, “they muted their 
efforts to begin substantive discussions with the Chinese.” Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger , 147. 



129 


i nr\ 

Vietnam into northeastern Cambodia. He encountered substantial opposition to this 
decision, which amounted to a major escalation of the conflict. At first Kissinger, along 
with Laird and Rogers, questioned the operation because they believed, correctly, that its 
inevitable disclosure would add fuel to the American anti-war movement’s fire. Further, 
all three argued to the president that, over the long run, the invasion would not decisively 
affect the course of the war. 

Still, Nixon was resolute in his belief that it was necessary to save both Cambodia and 
South Vietnam from the Communists. Kissinger soon retreated from his initial 
opposition. Despite his concerns, he came around to full support of the operation. He 
probably believed that in doing so he could not only remain (or perhaps get back) in the 
president’s good graces through a demonstration of his loyalty, but also discredit both 
Laird and Rogers who remained adamantly opposed to the invasion. 171 

In the wake of the invasion, some of Kissinger’s principal National Security Council 
assistants, including Roger Morris (of NSSM 39 fame) and Anthony Lake (The “Tar 


170 The objective of this escalation, in which elements of the South Vietnamese Army led the assault but 
were supported by the United States military, was to drive the North Vietnamese out of eastern Cambodia, 
disrupt their logistic pipeline to South Vietnam and, in the process, save the pro-Western government of 
Lon Nol. 

171 On Kissinger’s “flip flop” position on the invasion, Dallek remarks, “Kissinger was torn between his 
conviction that direct U.S. involvement in Cambodia was probably unnecessary... and wanting to remain in 
Nixon’s good graces. With Rogers and Laird opposing Nixon’s decision, it allowed a compliant Kissinger 
to become, more than ever, the president’s most important adviser.” Based on transcripts of Kissinger’s 
telephone conversations, he further notes, “Henry’s conversations made clear that one-upping his two rivals 
was a high priority.” Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger , 197-198 



130 


Baby ” Option), resigned. Kissinger, however, was convinced that his ultimate loyalty to 
the president during the Cambodian crisis had significantly advanced his own position 
with Nixon. He was apparently correct, as he played a leading role in a series of crisis 
elsewhere during 1970: the revolt of young Palestinian radical refugees against Jordan’s 
King Hussein, a moderate, pro-American leader in the Arab world, which reached its 
climax in September; indications that the Soviet Union was building a nuclear submarine 
base at Cienfuegos, Cuba, raising the possibility that it was preparing to introduce 
offensive weapons into Cuba; the September elections in Chile which brought the leftist 

172 

government of Salvador Allende to power. 

The resolutions of the first two crises were quick, although the Jordanian crisis nearly 
escalated into a major regional conflict as Syrian moved militarily in support of the 
Palestinian uprising and Israel, urged on by the United States, entered the fray. Further, 
although Kissinger exaggerated the extent of Soviet involvement, there was always a 
possibility of super-power confrontation because Moscow’s arms client, Syria, supported 
the Palestinians. 


I7 ~ Allende won a plurality of the vote (36.2 percent) over the conservative candidate, Jorge Alessandri (35 
percent) and the centrist Radomiro Tomic (27.8 percent). With no candidate garnering a majority, the 
Chilean constitution provided that the parliament select the new president. According to historian Jussi 
Hanhimaki, in past situations of this sort, the parliament had always selected the candidate who received 
the largest percentage of the popular vote, in this case, Allende. Jussi Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect , 


100 . 



131 


The Black September Crisis 

On 17 September 1970, King Hussein launched an offensive against a Palestinian 
refugee revolt, instigated not by Yassir Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Movement (PLO), 
but by the smaller, and more radical, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine 
(PFLP), led by George Habash 173 Some of the Jordanian attacks came against Palestinian 
strongholds in the northern area of the kingdom, close to the Syrian border. On 19 
September, Syrian tanks, with Palestinian markings, crossed the Jordanian border. King 
Hussein’s army, perhaps assisted by Israeli air strikes, but decidedly supported by the 
Syria- threatening movement of Israeli armored units into the Golan Heights - an 
arrangement finessed by Henry Kissinger between the more-than-enthusiastic Israelis and 
the hesitant Hussein - repelled the attack. By 22 September, the Syrian tanks were in full 
retreat. On 27 September, Hussein and the PLO’s Arafat met in Cairo to resolve the 
simmering situation with the Jordanian Palestinians. Using the good offices of Egypt’s 


173 Jordan provided a home to Palestinians who were displaced from their homeland following the 1948 
Arab-Israeli War and the 1967 Six Days War. Hussein had offended his somewhat unwelcome guests by 
tentatively exploring peace negotiations with Israel following the latter war. His “reactionary” policies led 
to an unsuccessful assassination attempt on his life in June 1970, which in turn, led to a crackdown on 
Palestinian radicals in Jordan. Besides the threat to his own regime from the Palestinian radicals, Hussein 
was deeply concerned about the consequences for Jordan’s security caused by the PFLP’s continuing raids 
against the West Back from Jordanian territory. Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect, 93-94. 



132 


Gamal Abdel Nasser, they signed a ceasefire and agreed that the Palestinian army and 
guerrilla forces would withdraw from Jordan’s major cities . 174 

Nasser suffered a fatal stroke a day after the signing of the ceasefire. The death of 
America’s long-time Middle Eastern nemesis, coming as it did simultaneously with the 
defeat of the Syrians and the strengthening of King Hussein’s position, seemed to portend 
an upswing in American fortunes in the Middle East. From Kissinger’s viewpoint, they 
came at the expense of the Soviet Union. “The forces of moderation in the Middle East 
had been preserved. The King had prevailed by his own courage and decisiveness. Yet 
these would have been in vain but for his friendship with the United States. The Soviets 
had backed off, raising by another notch the growing Arab disenchantment with 
Moscow .” 175 

Both Nixon and Kissinger viewed the Jordanian crisis as an American “win” over the 
Soviet Union, although the latter’s role in the crisis had ranged from minimal to almost 
nothing. According to Walter Isaacson, although Kissinger played up the Jordanian- 
Palestinian-Syrian face off as an East-West showdown, the Soviet Union’s principal 
relationship to the episode was its role as Syria’s major arms supplier. Moscow probably 


174 An analysis of the Jordanian crisis, especially its consequences for Soviet and American policies in the 
Middle East and the boost its resolution gave to the Kissinger foreign policy portfolio, are detailed in 
Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect, 93-98. See also Isaacson, Kissinger, 285-315, for a day-by-day 
accounting of the Jordanian crisis (as well as the other September 1970 events in Cienfuegos and Chile). 

175 Henry Kissinger, White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1979), 631 



133 


stood to gain from the situation if the Palestinians and Syrians had defeated the Jordanian 
armed forces, and the Soviets might have taken advantage of the situation had the United 
States and Israel not acted. In the final analysis, however, Isaacson asks (and answers), 
’’But was it truly as much of a direct confrontation with the Soviet Union as Kissinger 
thought? Probably not. Syria’s decision to invade was not instigated by the Soviets, nor 
was its decision to withdraw due to American pressure on the Soviets.” To support this 
conclusion, among other evidence, he cites Talcott Steelye, then the State Department’s 
director of North Arabian Affairs and an experienced American diplomat, who noted, 
“Moscow’s involvement in fomenting the crisis did not exist to the best of our 
knowledge. The White House contention that we stood the Soviets down is pure 
nonsense .” 176 

The “victory” over the Soviet Union perhaps enhanced American influence in the 
Middle East and elsewhere - a needed boost to American credibility and leadership, 
which continued to suffer as a result of the unending and eventually unwinnable war in 
Southeast Asia. Equally importantly, however, it seemed to demonstrate to Nixon and 
Kissinger that getting tough, especially where Moscow was involved, if only very 
indirectly in this case, was of major importance to successful outcomes in the East-West 


176 


Isaacson, Kissinger , 311-312. 



134 


global struggle. Within the general Cold War setting, it was, after all, standing up to the 
Soviet Union that mattered most from the White House’s real-politik perspective. 

From that same perspective, another lesson learned from the Jordanian crisis was the 
belief that the Soviet Union’s role in the Middle East could, and should, be minimized 
and that of Israel maximized. Israel’s important position in the Middle East was in 
keeping with the basic elements of the Nixon Doctrine. As explained by Hanhimaki, 
“Israel, in a sense, was now considered one of the strong regional allies that, according to 
the principles of the Nixon Doctrine, would maintain regional stability by deterring 
further Arab adventures through its awesome military might. All the Americans had to 
do to keep the peace was outclass Soviet military aid to the neighboring Arab 
countries.” 77 

Moreover, Kissinger’s actions helped to undermine Secretary of State Rogers’ own 
comprehensive, multilateral proposal for peaceful evolution in the Middle East, which by 
the time of the Jordanian crisis had already come under intense criticism from all 


177 Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect, 97. Nixon stopped over in Guam during a trip to Asia in mid-1969. 
In an off-the-record news conference he announced a new approach to American relations with Asia. 
Nixon formalized the policy in his speech to the nation in early November. As the president explained the 
doctrine, now global in nature, it included three key points: the United States would honor all its treaty 
commitments; it would continue to provide a nuclear shield to nations allied with the United States, or any 
“nation whose survival we consider vital to our security and the security of the region as a whole”; in 
situations not involving nuclear aggression, the United States would provide military and economic 
assistance when requested and as appropriate. “But we shall look to the nation directly threatened to 
assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defense.” Quoted in Kissinger, White 
House Years, 224-225. 



135 


1 78 

concerned. Among other things, the Rogers’ Plan called for both the United States and 
the Soviet Union to broker peace negotiations among the principle Middle Eastern 
powers. Moscow’s key role in the process, especially after the Jordanian crisis, was a 
non-starter for both the president and Kissinger. Further, as noted by Hanhimaki, the 
plan was already dead in the water by September 1970, in part because of Kissinger’s 
linkage of progress in the Middle East to progress in Vietnam. Until the Soviet Union 
demonstrated a commitment to pressuring the North Vietnamese, Kissinger was 
determined to move slowly, if at all, at trying to resolve the festering crisis in the Middle 
East. 

Nixon and Kissinger’s early scuttling of the Rogers Plan, followed a year later by the 
Jordanian crisis in which American unilateral actions devised and initiated by Kissinger, 
approved by Nixon, and assisted by regional partner, Israel, ostensibly saved the 
government of pro-American King Hussein, hastened the declining influence both of 


178 President Nixon had allowed Rogers to develop an American strategy for the Middle East, because, 
according to Hanhimaki, he believed “Kissinger as a Jew could not act impartially when the interest of 
Israel were concerned.” Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect , 94. The Rogers’ Plan may have been far too 
ambitious given its omnibus nature and the historical animosities of the region. However, Kissinger’s own 
efforts to torpedo the plan, and his jealously over Rogers’ key role as “the” architect of Middle East policy, 
effectively undermined the project before any serious efforts were made to get it started. 

179 The national security adviser had already sold this position to Nixon by late September 1969, as 
explained by Hanhimaki. “Kissinger managed to convince Nixon that it was important to tie the Middle 
East settlement to progress on Vietnam. The United States ‘should not move too fast on the Middle East,’ 
Kissinger argued. . .until the Soviets used their influence in Hanoi. . .Nixon listened attentively and 
concluded that Kissinger was right. He promised to ‘cool off Rogers’ on the Middle East.” Hanhimaki, 
The Flawed Architect, 95. The author references a telephone conversation between Nixon and Kissinger on 
24 September as his source. 



136 


Rogers and the State Department, generally, in American diplomacy. Thereafter, Henry 
Kissinger appropriated the role as Nixon’s principle adviser on the Middle East. 

Nixon and Kissinger’s “Cuban Missile” Crisis 

Even as the Jordanian crisis was falling off the front page of the American foreign 
policy agenda, a new crisis was brewing in Caribbean waters only ninety miles off the 
Florida coast. In June 1970 and continuing throughout the summer, American 
reconnaissance planes (U-2s) flying over Cuba had photographed construction activities 
on what appeared to be a large naval facility for support of Soviet nuclear-powered, 
missile submarines at Cienfuegos. If such was the case, then the Kremlin’s action 
represented a violation of the 1962 Soviet- American understanding that the Soviet Union 
would not introduce offensive weapon systems into Cuba and the United States would 
not try to overthrow the Castro regime. Unlike the Jordanian crisis, however, the new 
“Cuban Missile Crisis” presented the get-tough Nixon-Kis singer team with a real 
opportunity to square off directly against the Russians. 


180 The existence of a support base for Soviet nuclear-powered submarines in Cienfuegos would extend the 
on-station time of Soviet missile-carrying submarines operating off the American East Coast. Rather than 
returning to their Northern Fleet bases, which involved a lengthy transit time when they were out of missile 
range of targets in the United States, they could instead use the nearby facility for their logistics 
requirements, including rest and recreation for the crews. The U-2 photographs showed the construction of 
barracks and a soccer field alongside the submarine facility. Isaacson, however, put the construction at 
Cienfuegos in the proper perspective, noting that the base was “not a full-fledged submarine base, but 
rather a semi -permanent support facility designed for stopovers, refueling, and recreation.” Isaacson, 
Kissinger, 296. 



137 


Interestingly, however, in early August after the administration had deliberately leaked 
news of the construction activity to the American media, the Soviets confirmed that they 
would uphold the 1962 understanding. Nixon was satisfied with this assurance and 
agreed with Rogers that the issue should be handled quietly, avoiding any escalation into 
a major public confrontation. Nixon’s decision apparently preempted any ideas that the 
more -bellicose Kissinger may have entertained to do just that. 

Kissinger, however, was not prepared to let the issue go quietly into that gentle night. 
He subsequently used an “on background” press briefing in Chicago on September 16 to 
publicly remark that if the Soviet Union were to use the base as a “depot” for missile 

1 o 1 

submarines, then “That would be a matter we would study very carefully.” Then, on 
September 18, he used the U-2 photos of the infamous “soccer field” to impress Nixon’s 
chief of staff, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, with the gravity of the issue in order to force a 
meeting with the president. According to Hanhimaki, Kissinger told Haldeman, “These 
soccer fields could mean war, Bob.” When Halderman asked how that could be, 
Kissinger responded, “Cubans play baseball. Russians play soccer.” 182 In fact, Cubans 
do play soccer, if not as much as baseball. However, Kissinger’s somewhat effected 
alarmism was largely designed to get an appointment with the president. In this he was 


181 Isaacson, Kissinger , 293. 

18 ~ Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect , 99. 



138 


successful, although Nixon kept to his earlier decision to maintain a low profile on the 
construction issue. 

On September 25, Kissinger’s Chicago “on background” remarks resurfaced in the 
New York Times. The article, “Ugly Clouds in the South,” by C.L. Sulzberger, and the 
subsequent Pentagon comments on its contents, blew the lid off the situation and elevated 
it to a major public issue. Importantly, it gave Kissinger the opportunity to convince the 
president that it was time (or, from his viewpoint, past time), to challenge the Soviet 
Union and force them to back down. On that same day, he met twice with the Soviet 
Ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Dobrynin, impressed him with the seriousness with 
which the United States viewed the situation, but told Dobrynin the United States desired 
to “give the Soviets ‘a graceful opportunity to withdraw without a public 
confrontation.’” Kissinger then left Washington for a scheduled secret meeting with 
North Vietnamese representatives in Paris. His absence from the White House 
demonstrated that no matter how seriously, or opportunistically, Kissinger may have 
viewed the Cuban issue, it was clearly secondary to finding a resolution to the war in 
Vietnam. 

Upon his return on October 6, however, he again met with Dobrynin who handed him 
an official statement that his country stood by the 1962 understandings, a reiteration of 

183 


Isaacson, Kissinger , 308. 



139 


Moscow’s earlier August statement. As in the Jordanian crisis, however, Nixon and 
Kissinger believed that their “get tough” stance had forced the Soviets’ hand and caused 
them to retreat in the face of American firmness. Although Nixon’s preferred course on 
handling the issue, at least initially, differed substantially from Kissinger’s early 
proclivity to confront the Soviet Union, the national security adviser’s dogged persistence 
eventually won over the hesitant Nixon. Again, Kissinger had outmaneuvered Secretary 
of State Rogers, with whom Nixon had originally agreed. 

In the end, it didn’t matter if the Russians had really planned to permanently base 
missile submarines in Cienfuegos, which they adamantly disavowed, or merely intended 
to use the Cienfuegos facility to occasionally visit Cuba, show the flag, and provide a 
brief respite for their submarine crews from their arduous deployment. After the “crisis” 
disappeared, that was exactly what occurred. The importance to Kissinger resided in the 
fact that he believed his preferred tough stance toward the Soviets had won the day. As 
a result, his influence with the president grew stronger, while Rogers’ position 
concomitantly waned. Journalist and author Seymour Hersh attested to this watershed 
event in the empowerment of Henry Kissinger by observing, “Cienfuegos marked a 
turning point for Kissinger. He had bypassed an indecisive and election-minded 



140 


President to challenge the Russians and win. Whether it was a victory over what actually 

1 84 

did exist, or over what he thought might exist in the future, did not matter.” 

Crisis in Chile 

The 4 September 1970 elections in Chile presented Nixon and Kissinger with a 
different set of circumstances, since it was difficult, even for them, to see the hand of the 
Soviet Union at work behind the democratic processes that brought Salvador Allende and 
his broad leftist coalition to power. Moreover, Kissinger’s disregard for the South 
American continent (and the global southern hemisphere, in general), had led him to 
conclude, as he told the visiting Chilean foreign minister, Gabriel Valdes, in June 1969, 
“You come here speaking of Latin America, but this is not important. Nothing important 
can come from the South. History has never been produced in the South. The axis of 
history starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, crosses over to Washington, and then goes to 

i oc 

Tokyo. What happens in the South is of no importance.” 

In September 1970, however, with a very changed situation in the “South,” both came 
to view the Chilean situation as a serious threat to American national interests, despite a 
CIA estimate that concluded, “The U.S. has no vital national interest within Chile,” and 
“The world military balance of power would not be significantly altered by an Allende 

184 Seymour Hersh, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House (New York: Summit Books, 
1983), 257. 

185 Ibid., 263. 



141 


government .” 186 Apparently disregarding the CIA’s assessment in the same document 
that Allende posed no likely threat to peace in Latin America, they fixated upon the idea 
that the president’s personal credibility, as well as that of the United States, would be 
undermined by the existence of “another Cuba” in the Western hemisphere. Moreover, 
they believed that American leadership in Latin America and the Organization of 
American States (OAU) would be sabotaged. As explained by Kissinger, Allende’ s 
“stated goal for over a decade before he became President had been to undermine our 
position in the entire Western Hemisphere by violence if necessary.” Further, “Nixon 
was beside himself. For over a decade he had lambasted Democratic administrations for 
permitting the establishment of Communist power in Cuba. And now what he perceived 

1 87 

- not wrongly - as another Cuba had come into being during his own Administration.” 

According to Kissinger, Allende admired Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, emulated his 
vociferous anti-American and anti-imperialism posture, and despite his leadership of the 
Socialist coalition, was dedicated to installing a totalitarian Marxist-Leninist regime in 
Chile. As Nixon and Kissinger viewed the developments in Chile within the broader 
context of the East-West global environment, they constructed a sort of Latin American 


186 CIA Directorate of Intelligence, Intelligence Memorandum, “Situation Following the Chilean 
Presidential Election,” 4 September 1970; reproduced in Christy Macy and Susan Kaplan, eds.. Documents 
(New York: Penguin Books, 1980), 167. The work is a series of official government documents on CIA 
activities, compiled under the sponsorship of the Center for National Security Studies. 

187 Kissinger, White House Years, 657, 671. 



142 


domino theory in which the fate of other Latin American nations, sandwiched between 

i oo 

Chile and Cuba, was seriously threatened. They further linked this concern to the 
increasing political power of Communist parties in Western Europe - the Eurocommunist 
phenomenon - especially in Italy (and later in Portugal after the April 1974 coup), which 
they believed threatened American interests in Europe, including most prominently the 
Atlantic Alliance. 189 

In recalling his and the president’s belief that Allende would support radical groups 
among its neighboring states, spreading instability and opening the door for increased 


188 The “domino theory” originated with the Eisenhower Administration and was originally applied to the 
vulnerability of Asian nations to the Sino-Soviet threat. To prevent what the president and his first 
Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, believed would be a domino effect if one Asian nation fell to 
Communist aggression, they designed an alliance structure in Asia, first with South Korea and then 
Taiwan, eventually culminating in the eight-nation Southeast Asia Treaty Organization of 1954. It is 
unclear if the president or Dulles first coined the term, “domino theory,” but Eisenhower explained it thusly 
in April 1954. “You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to 
the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a 
disintegration that would have the most profound influences.” Paul M. Kattenburg, The Vietnam Trauma 
in American Foreign Policy, 1945-1975 (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1980), 66, note 20; 
quoted in Schuler Foerster and Edward N. Wright, eds., American Defense Policy, 6 th ed. (Baltimore: The 
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), 244, note 84. 

189 As explained by Raymond Garthoff, Eurocommunism, a termed which actually wasn’t coined until 
1975, referred to the participation of Western European Communist parties in the democratic political 
processes of their respective countries and their sometimes divergence from the Moscow line. This 
divergence was especially true of the Italian Communist Party, which after World War II, despite the best 
efforts of the United States to undermine its activities, grew in power and legitimacy. Nixon and 
Kissinger, and later President Ford, were worried about the increasing independence of the Western 
European allies, beginning in the latel960s. However, Eurocommunism, an internal political dynamic, 
became the major cause of concern in American-Western European relations during the decade of the 
1970s. Washington saw it as threatening to American hegemony and leadership within the Atlantic 
Alliance - indeed, to the future of the Alliance itself. Interestingly, as Garthoff points out, the Soviet 
Union was equally concerned about the effects of Eurocommunism on Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe 
and its own leadership of the international Communist movement, then already split and further threatened 
by the growing power and influence of the People’s Republic of China. Garthoff, Detente and 
Confrontation, especially 537-555. 



143 


Communist penetration, Kissinger evaluated Chile as more dangerous than Cuba. 
“Because it was a continental country, Chile’s capacity for doing so was greater by far 
than Cuba’s, and Cuba had already posed a substantial challenge. . .Chile bordered 
Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia, all plagued by radical movements. Allende’s success 
would have had implications also for the future of Communist parties in Western Europe, 
whose policies would inevitably undermine the Western Alliance whatever their 
fluctuating claims of respectability. No responsible President could look at Allende’s 
accession to power with anything but disquiet .” 190 

Seymour Hersh argues that President Nixon was more concerned about the future of 
American corporate interests in Chile, which he believed would be dangerously 
threatened by the election of Allende who had called for nationalization of foreign 
companies operating in Chile. Kissinger, however, was most worried about the effects of 
Allende’s democratic election and the Chilean acceptance of his presidency - 
foreshadowing a kind of “Ameri-communism” - on other Latin American states as well 
as those Western European nations in which indigenous Communist parties were gaining 
in popularity. Roger Morris, a close Kissinger assistant, told Hersh that Kissinger was 
“contemptuous” of the business community and not overly concerned with their future 
prospects in Chile. He was deeply worried about Allende’s election for other reasons. 

190 Kissinger, White House Years, 657. 



144 


Morris revealed, “I don’t think anybody in the government understood how ideological 
Kissinger was about Chile. I don’t think anybody every fully grasped that Henry saw 
Allende as being a far more serious threat than Castro. Allende was a living example of 
democratic social reform in Latin America. All kinds of cataclysmic events rolled 
around, but Chile scared him. He talked about Eurocommunism [in later years] the same 
way he talked about Chile early on .” 191 

Another NSC aide iterated Morris’ opinion about Kissinger’s near paranoia. The 
unidentified official recalled “a Kissinger discussion of the Allende election in terms of 
Italy, where the Communist Party was growing in political strength. The fear was not 
only that Allende would be voted into office, but that - after his six-year term - the 
political process would work and he would be voted out of office in the next election. 
Kissinger saw the notion that Communists would participate in the electoral process and 

192 

accept the results peacefully as the wrong message to send Italian voters.” 

The major worry, then, for Mr. Kissinger, although he would never admit to it, was 
that his often-times pedantic lectures to Western European leaders on the “grave” dangers 
inherent in Communist participation in the democratic process would seem hollow if 
Allende and his leftist coalition accepted defeat at the ballot box in the same manner as 
they had accepted victory. This, of course, would undermine the administration’s 

191 Hersh, The Price of Power, 270. 

192 Ibid. 



145 


argument, most often voiced by Kissinger, that the nature of the Marxist-Leninist 

ideology dictated that once in power, the Communists would move to perpetuate their 

dominance by eliminating the very democratic system and processes that had empowered 

them. Kissinger used this argument not only to raise the specter of a permanent 

Communist takeover in Chile, but probably also to send a signal to the occasionally 

recalcitrant Western Europe allies, some of whose leaders openly questioned Kissinger’s 

1 

warnings about their own Communist parties’ participation in electoral politics. 

Whatever their primary reasons for their hard-nosed anti-Allende attitude - security for 
American corporations in Chile or national security - neither Nixon nor his right-hand 
man on foreign policy took Allende’s electoral victory calmly. As history has shown, 
they were quick to respond to the new “threat” to American interests emanating from the 
south, with Kissinger remarking during a Forty Committee meeting convened to consider 


193 In regard to the results of the 1970 Chilean elections, Hersh notes that in mid-September, just after the 
elections, Kissinger talked off-the-record with a group of mid-Western journalists. He told them, “with 
apparent conviction, ‘I have yet to meet somebody who firmly believes that if Allende wins there is likely 
to be another free election in Chile.’ His real fear, of course, was precisely the opposite: that Allende 
would work within the democratic process.” Ibid. Kissinger’s incessant warnings to the Western 
Europeans that they were essentially “playing with fire” in their acceptance of the legitimacy of indigenous 
Communist parties began early in the Nixon Administration and continued even after he left public office 
with President’s Ford defeat. In a speech in 1977, for example, following spectacular gains by the Italian 
Communist party in the June 1976 national elections, Kissinger reiterated his traditional arguments about 
the dangers of Eurocommunism to Western democracy. “The Communist program - by definition - calls 
for the radical transformation of society; by the very nature of their beliefs Communists will be driven to 
bring about institutional changes that would make their ascendance permanent... Only in Western Europe 
and the United States are there still illusions about the nature of Communist parties.” Henry A. Kissinger, 
“Communist Parties in Western Europe: Challenge to the West” (remarks at the Conference on Italy and 
Eurocommunism, sponsored by The Hoover Institution and The American Enterprise Institute, 
Washington, D.C. June 9, 1977), Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, California. 



146 


the Chilean situation, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a county go 
Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people .” 194 

Kissinger’s personal account of the American involvement in Chile during the Allende 
years depicts the United States’ actions as largely benign. This is a curious portrayal 
considering the concerns he and Nixon expressed about the dire regional and 
international effects of the Chilean situation . 195 In actuality, as documented by the public 
release of government documents on the Chilean situation, American subversive 


194 Hersh, The Price of Power, 265. 

195 Kissinger, White House Years, especially Chapter XVII, “The Autumn of Crises: Chile,” 651-683. 
Referring to the 1975 investigations conducted by the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental 
Operation (the Church Committee, named for Senator Frank Church, the Select Committee’s Chairman), 
which investigated CIA activities in Chile, among other places, Kissinger denies any subversive wrong- 
doing prior to and after the 1970 election. “The ‘covert operations’ never got off the ground. Allende was 
inaugurated; there was no coup; we had no further contacts aimed at organizing one after October of 1970 
(despite some false and misleading innuendos in the Senate report).” Ibid., 677. He also argues that Chile, 
even after Allende became president, “remained one of the largest recipients of official American aid per 
capita in Latin America.” Ibid., 682. Perhaps Kissinger never envisioned the release of countless 
documents that would contradict his assertions of the innocuous posture the United States assumed both 
before and after Allende’s inauguration. Whatever the case, those documents show that immediately 
following the election, on 15 September 1970, President Nixon ordered CIA Director Richard Helms, in the 
presence of Kissinger and Attorney General John Mitchell, armed with $10,000,000, to take all necessary 
measures to “save Chile” from Allende and his supporters. Helms was directed to use “the best men we 
have,” to not involve the American Embassy and to “make the economy scream.” Macy and Kaplan, Doc. 
57, “Meeting with President on Chile at 1525 Sept 15 ’70,” 168. In early November, National Security 
Decision Memorandum 93 (NSDM 93) officially set forth in detail the policy Nixon had hastily conveyed 
to Director Helms in September. As explained by Hanhimaki, “The administration would try to isolate 
Chile and seek support for its policy from other countries in the Western Hemisphere, ‘particularly Brazil 
and Argentina,’ and to ‘establish and maintain close relations with friendly military leaders in the 
hemisphere.’ In the economic field, U.S. private investment in Chile was to be discouraged; ‘existing 
guarantees and financing arrangements terminated or reduced’ whenever possible; and international 
financial institutions were to be pressured into limiting credits and loans to Chile. In addition, private U.S. 
businesses were to be informed of the government’s ‘concern’ over the implications of Allende’s 
presidency. In short, as of November 1970, Chile had become a pariah state, a subject of relentless 
American economic warfare.” Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect, 104. Hanhimaki’ s source is NSDM 93, 
“Policy towards Chile,” November 9, 1970, National Security Archive Chile Documents. 



147 


activities were devastating to that nation’s economy and, more importantly, to its 
democracy. 

Immediately after the elections and the legislature’s selection of Allende as the 
president in late October 1970, the United States undertook an intensive, systematic 
program to undermine the new government, largely through economic warfare. 196 This 
action, aided and abetted by large American corporations with vested interests in 
restoring a right-wing government in Chile, at least indirectly helped foment the 
September 1973 military coup, in which Allende, the democratically elected president, 
died, allegedly by suicide. 

Following the coup, Chile was governed by the repressive and undemocratic military 
rule of Augusto Pinochet. As noted by historian Odd Ame Westad, the regime, “in spite 
of its atrocious human rights record - was welcomed by the Nixon Administration which 
resumed economic aid to Chile in the aftermath of the coup.” American efforts to 


196 Between the 4 September elections and the legislature’s confirmation of Allende as the new president on 
24 October, the United States, operating through a very small number of clandestine CIA agents and the 
CIA station chief in Santiago, and without the knowledge of the Forty Committee (less Kissinger and CIA 
Director Helms), attempted to prod certain disaffected members of the Armed Forces to eliminate Salvador 
Allende. In the process, these elements killed the highly respected Army Chief of Staff, General Rene 
Schneider. While personally disliking Allende, the general adamantly adhered to Chile’s civilian 
democratic processes and refused to support the attempts to assassinate him. Seymour Hersh’s account of 
this operation is exceptionally detailed and well supported by his many interviews with the people who 
were actually, and intimately, involved. It reveals much about how the Nixon-Kissinger team conducted 
foreign policy - in this case, an exceptionally sinister, but unsuccessful, performance by a small party of 
both American and Chilean misfits and thugs. Hersh, The Price of Power, 277-296. 

197 Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times 
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 201. 



148 


disrupt the Chilean economy and, in the process, to destroy Allende’s authority and 
credibility were undoubtedly helped along by Allende’s own economic mismanagement, 
poor leadership and radical domestic and foreign policies. However, Kissinger’s remark 
that “When Allende was finally overthrown, it was by his own incompetence and 
intransigence,” is disingenuous, at best, and belies the significant role of American 

1 Q8 

subversive activities in the overthrow of his government. 

By the end of 1970, with the Jordanian and Cienfuegos “victories” and a 
comprehensive plan in place to discredit and undermine the Allende government, 
Kissinger had good reason to be satisfied with his progress in solidifying his role as the 
“vicar” of foreign policy. As noted by Isaacson, “he was not yet a celebrity, he did not 
threaten or challenge the president’s authority, but he was clearly in charge of running 
foreign affairs.” 199 During the September crises, Kissinger had not only expanded his 
responsibilities at the expense of his bureaucratic adversaries, but he had also gained 
Nixon’s trust. In doing so, he earned a leading role in constructing and implementing 
policies designed to effect “a new structure of peace,” as he and Nixon were fond of 
saying. 


198 Kissinger, White House Years, 677 . Perhaps the most damning analysis of the American role in 
destabilizing Chile and the most powerful contradiction of Kissinger’s version of the “Allende” story is 
Seymour M. Hersh, The Price of Power, especially Chapter 21, “Chile: Hardball,” 258-276, and Chapter 
22, “Chile: Get Rid of Allende,” 277-296. 

199 Isaacson, Kissinger, 314. 



149 


The New Foreign Policy Paradigm 

The Nixon White House’s vision of a “new structure of peace” evolved from a variety 
of real-world conditions. First, the president and Kissinger recognized that the Soviet 
Union had achieved super-power status as a result of its strategic parity with the United 
States. Consequently, it had become increasingly dangerous to at least directly confront 
Moscow, which the United States had been prone to do while it enjoyed strategic 
superiority. Now, the United States would have to carefully manage the emergence of 
the Soviet Union as a super power. Secondly, both were alert to the growing strength of 
China and the escalating hostilities between Beijing and Moscow. Finally, both believed 
that American credibility had significantly suffered as a result of the United States’ 
inability to win the war in Vietnam. To ensure a leading American role in global politics, 
it was therefore crucial to restore this critical element of American power. Given these 
realities, especially that of growing Soviet power and the perception, if not the reality, 
that American power was on the decline, Nixon and Kissinger opted to fashion a new 
pattern for American global relations. 

Thus was born triangular diplomacy, which involved parallel efforts to improve 
American relations with the Soviet Union through the detente policy and the “opening” to 
China, the first step toward official recognition of the Beijing government. Nixon and 
Kissinger designed their strategy to take advantage of Sino-Soviet animosities and fears, 



150 


allowing Washington to use the two Communist nations as leverage against each other. 
While the triangular relationship not only accommodated the Soviet Union’s super-power 
status and China’s growing strength, it also provided the means for a reassertion of 
American power and leadership. 200 

From the Nixon-Kissinger real-politik perspective, the five-year effort to shape a world 
order more agreeable to the interests of the United States resulted in a number of notable 
achievements. First, triangular diplomacy was largely successful: detente with the 
Soviet Union, including strategic arms negotiations, progressed, albeit slowly and with 
the occasional setback; American-Chinese relations developed favorably after Kissinger’s 
mid-1971 successful brokerage of Nixon’s early 1972 “opening to China.” Secondly, in 
early 1973, direct American involvement in Vietnam ended. Thirdly, the September 
1973 coup in Chile had prevented, at least in the minds of Nixon and Kissinger, the 
establishment of a second Marxist-Leninist revolutionary state in Latin America. Finally, 
Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East after the October 1973 Yom Kippur 
War ensured a central leadership role for the United States while further weakening 
Soviet influence in the region. 


200 Although Nixon and Kissinger were quick to talk about their “new structure of peace,” there really was 
nothing fresh or original about their strategic paradigm, as argued by historian Robert Beisner. The 
Kissinger and Nixon efforts “actually amounted to an elaborate design, consistent with the old international 
structure, to strengthen the role of a United States suddenly beset by Soviet pretensions. North Vietnamese 
tenacity, OPEC price gouging, and street demonstrations at home.” It was, ultimately, no more than an 
“attempt to shore up American dominance within the familiar containment paradigm.” Beisner, “History 
and Henry Kissinger,” 521, 522. 



151 


Gaullism, Ostpolitik, and Eurocommunism 

The global environment did, however, contain some worrisome aspects for the 
president and his foreign policy deputy. First among these was the integrity of the 
Atlantic Alliance. The European allies had grown more independent of American 
influence through the long years of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Even before the 
beginning of Soviet- American detente, the West European community, led by De 
Gaulle’s France, had initiated and expanded diverse contacts with both Eastern Europe 
and the Soviet Union, a process that eventually led to the Helsinki agreement in 1975. 

These actions disquieted Nixon and Kissinger, but during the first five years of the 
Nixon White House they were most concerned with Western German Chancellor Willy 
Brandt’s Ostpolitik. The impact of this East-oriented policy was magnified by the 
previous French Gaullist policies that had led, in part, to France’s withdrawal from the 
NATO military structure in 1966. As argued by Raymond Garthoff, a senior fellow in 
the Foreign Policy Studies program at the Brookings Institution and former diplomat, 
Kissinger and Nixon “were from the outset suspicious and ‘worried’ by Brandt’s 
Ostpolitik. They were moved to develop an American detente with the Soviet Union in 



152 


part to preclude a West German-led European detente with the Soviet Union from 

90 1 

excluding the United States and thus splitting the Western alliance.” - 

Indeed, Kissinger worried that the long-term objective of the Kremlin was to 
“Finlandize” Western Europe, thereby escalating Soviet influence in the region while 
alleviating the threat to the Soviet Union from that front. He expressed these sentiments 
to the Chinese Foreign Minister during a September 1975 meeting in New York City. 
After Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua remarked that the Soviet Union had to gain 
hegemony over Western Europe in order to “control the world,” Kissinger responded, “I 
agree that the Soviet Union’s long range objective is to turn Western Europe into a kind 
of Finland. Either they can do it by a direct move against Europe, or they can do it by 
moves which will demonstrate to Western Europe that they are an irresistible force. . .The 


201 Raymond L. Garthoff, Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan , 
rev. ed. (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1994), 126-127. The author also notes that it was 
French President Charles De Gaulle who began the Western European initiatives toward detente with 
Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in mid- 1966 with a visit to Moscow, followed in 1967 and 1968 by 
visits to Poland and Romania, respectively. During the same time frame as De Gaulle’s Moscow journey, 
the French foreign minister visited several East European countries. As a result of these latter visits, Paris 
expanded its cultural exchanges with Eastern Europe. For the United States, however, France’s own 
“eastern-oriented” policy raised serious questions about NATO and the status of American leadership in 
Western Europe. Garthoff notes, “De Gaulle was not only moving toward the East, he was also moving 
from the West, so to speak. On his visits in Eastern Europe de Gaulle constantly referred to the problem of 
a divided Germany, and the generally unsettled state of political affairs between East and West, as ‘a 
European question,’ to be settled by European nations, pointedly not including the United States or the two 
alliances, NATO and the Warsaw Pact.” Ibid., 124. 



153 


question is whether they might make some move in the Middle East or in the Far East to 

909 

demonstrate their power to Western Europe. 

In essence, Kissinger believed that West Europe an- Soviet detente advanced by 

independent policies such as France’s Gaullism and West Germany’s Ostpolitik, 

encouraged by Soviet actions designed to entice or intimidate, and absent strong 

American involvement and leadership, could eventually lead to a neutralization of all of 

Western Europe. Such a situation would rupture NATO and the postwar, stable order the 

alliance had helped establish. Kissinger expressed his and Nixon’s deep concerns about 

this trend in European policies thusly: 

Initially, the Nixon Administration had grave reservations about what 
Brandt called Ostpolitik. With each German state seeking to seduce the 
other, they might finally come together on some nationalist, neutralist 
program. . .Above all, the Nixon Administration feared for the unity of 
the West. DeGaulle had already broken the West’s united front toward 
Moscow by pulling France out of NATO and by pursuing his own policy 
of detente with the Kremlin. Washington viewed the specter of West 

903 

Germany breaking out on its own with trepidation.” 


202 “Memorandum of Conversation, “Subject: The Soviet Union; CSCE; Europe; Japan; Angola; 
Indochina; The President’s China Trip; The Global Strategic Situation; Korea,” September 28, 1975, p. 14 
[Database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive. Kissinger’s reference to “Finland” is 
related to the coined term “Finlandization.” The word pertains to the post-World War II arrangement 
between the Soviet Union and Finland in which the latter, living in the shadow of its much larger and more 
powerful neighbor, maintained a friendly attitude toward Moscow through truncated foreign and military 
policies. The former was characterized by non-alignment if not an outright tilt toward Moscow, while the 
latter essentially amounted to maintaining only a small self-defense force. Finland, then, was neutralized, 
and posed no threat to the Soviet Union. 

203 Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 735. 



154 


In addition to this “neutralist” trend, Nixon and Kissinger also worried about 
Eurocommunism’s effects on the Atlantic Alliance, especially America’s ability to retain 
its traditional leading role in the partnership if Communist political participation and 
power in Western Europe continued to grow. In his memoir, Years of Renewal, Kissinger 
discussed the reasons for his and Nixon’s belief that the presence of Communists in 
Western European governments represented a threat both to the Western alliance and to 
the democratic processes in member nations. First, they doubted the credibility of the 
Western European notion that Eurocommunist parties operated independently, and often 
in opposition to, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Secondly, they rejected the 
idea that introducing the Communists to democratic processes would somehow transform 
them into long-term cooperative partners rather than adversaries. Kissinger summarized 
these thoughts: 

The key issue was not the degree of independence of the European 
Communist Parties from Moscow but their Communist ideology 
and organization. Neither the internal dynamics nor the electoral 
programs of the Communist Parties seemed to me compatible with 
democracy or the established purposes of the Atlantic Alliance. No 
European Communist Party - not even Italy’s - had supported the 
Atlantic Alliance. Whatever difficulties their supposed independence 
might pose for Moscow, a common strategy for the defense of Western 
democracies was not on their agendas . 204 


204 


Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 627. 



155 


Although strained at times both by what they saw as Western European centrifugal 
tendencies and the “specter” of Eurocommunism, American-West European relations still 
remained strong, no doubt strengthened by Nixon’s special attention to Western Europe 
and the Atlantic Alliance. In his first two years of office, he visited Western Europe 
twice, perhaps to visibly reassert American leadership through a “showing of the flag” 
tour de force, and to demonstrate that despite the American attention on the war in 
Vietnam, the Atlantic Alliance remained the primary commitment.” 

By late 1973, then, Nixon and Kissinger, now also the Secretary of State, could 
consider the extant global arrangement not only more stable and orderly than the one they 
had inherited in 1969, but also more amenable to the restoration of American credibility 
and leadership and the promotion of American interests. However, their new structure of 
peace, with its emphasis on the high stakes game of triangular diplomacy and the East- 
West dimensions of global politics, left little or no room for consideration of Third World 
nation state and non-nation state actors. As long as they posed no threat to the status quo, 
Washington ignored them. However, as the 1970 elections in Chile showed, those like 
President Allende, who misbehaved by challenging the existing state of affairs, earned 
the wrath of a vindictive White House. 

205 Like Western Europe, relations with Japan had also become somewhat unsettled, but an array of 
economic, political and military agreements anchored American-Japanese relations. In sum, from the 
Nixon-Kissinger perspective, the world was a more manageable and orderly system in late 1973 than it had 
been five years earlier. 



156 


Black Sub-Saharan Africa: A Policy of Indifference 

The Nixon White House’s profound contempt for the Third World was probably 
matched only by their indifference toward the North-South dimension of international 
relations. The essence of this attitude was perhaps best captured in Kissinger’s less-than- 
cordial meeting with Foreign Minister Gabriel Valdes, of Chile, in June of 1969, as 
previously discussed. The latter had lectured President Nixon on Latin America’s 
contributions to American economic wealth. The president apparently took umbrage at 
this perceived audacity. Kissinger called in his Chilean counterpart to set the record 
straight. He first told Valdes that he was wasting his time trying to convince the 
president that “the South” was important to the United States. After Kissinger’s brief 
speech on the historical irrelevance of the South, Valdes countered, “Mr. Kissinger, you 
know nothing of the South.” Kissinger replied, “No. . .and I don’t care.” 206 

The attitude naturally carried over to the more remote and economically backward 
African continent, especially black sub-Saharan Africa. Importantly, it was also reflected 
in the adoption of the Option Two policy in early 1970. This was a prime example of a 
policy of indifference towards “the South,” in this case towards Africa’s black 


~ 06 As quoted in Hersh, The Price of Power, 263. Hersh claims that Valdes’ meeting with Nixon was tense 
because the Chilean, instead of presenting a prepared formal policy statement on American-Latin American 
commercial and economic relations, instead “spoke of the impossibility of dealing with the United States 
within the framework of inter- American relations; the differences in power were too great... and Nixon was 
caught off guard... Masking his irritation, Nixon heard Valdes out, and then pulled himself together, 
lowering his eyelids, becoming impenetrable, withdrawn. Kissinger frowned.” Ibid. 



157 


nationalists (as discussed in Chapter 1). While the State Department’s African Bureau 
initially opposed the policy and derisively referred to it as the “tar baby” option, 
according to insider Roger Morris, the bureau and its chief, Assistant Secretary David 
Newsom, soon came to embrace it. Newsom, in fact, became the leading public advocate 
of the policy, despite his initial objections to, and concerns about, the implications of 
Option Two. 207 

If nothing else, David Newsom was loyal, and with African Affairs largely invisible to 
the White House, he lasted through Nixon’s first term. However, Kissinger, who became 
Nixon’s secretary of state in September 1973, selected Donald Easum as his new assistant 
for African affairs (AF) in late 1973. Easum was exceptionally well versed in African 
Affairs, having served three tours of duty in West Africa.” Moreover, he well informed 
and sensitive to the liberation struggles in sub-Saharan Africa and closely attuned to the 
changing dynamics in the region after the April 1974 Portuguese coup and the new 
leadership’s declared intention to decolonize. 

Easum, perhaps alone in the top State Department echelons, recognized the post-coup 
opportunities to enhance American credibility and influence in both black and white 


207 Morris, Uncertain Greatness, 1 19. As previously noted, Morris was Kissinger’s Africa expert on the 
National Security Council Staff. He was also one of the principal authors of the 1969 study on American 
policy in southern Africa, referred to usually as NSSM 39. 

208 Easum had made a favorable impression on Kissinger when he directed a special National Security 
Council study on Latin American from 1969-1971. He was one of Kissinger’s first appointments when he 
finally dislodged William Rogers as Secretary of State in September 1973. 



158 


Africa. In October 1974, he expressed these sentiments in a hearing before the House’s 
Subcommittee on Africa. He first praised the Portuguese government for its decision to 
grant self-determination to its colonies and lauded the assistance provided by African 
states to the decolonization process. Then, promising American moral and material 
support for the newly emerging states, Easum noted, “The United States is also looking 
forward to establishing and strengthening mutually beneficial relations,” with each of 
Portugal’s former colonies. 209 

Easum tried valiantly, if unsuccessfully, to change the direction of American policy in 
the region. He not only urged Washington’s full support for Portugal’s decolonization 
efforts, but also advocated a stronger stance against South Africa and Rhodesia. His 
efforts fell on deaf ears as Kissinger disregarded his advice. From his geo-strategic 
perspective, Africa was part of “the South,” of minimal import on the global stage and 
deserving of neither his time nor consideration so long as those in the region behaved 
themselves. British journalist Bruce Oudes, one of many admirers of Easum, observed 
that the AF position, and by inference, Africa, were so low on Kissinger’s priority list 


209 Department of State, “Department Discusses Decolonization of Portuguese African Territories: 
Statement by Donald B. Easum, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs,” The Department of State Bulletin 
LXXI, no. 1844 (October 28, 1974): 586-587. While the United States did officially recognize both 
Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, after much prodding from Donald Easum, American relations with both 
remained distant and cool, and neither enjoyed “mutually beneficial relations” with the United States. 
However, the real tragedy in the Portuguese decolonization process occurred in Angola, the largest colony 
in population and size and by far the richest in natural resources. There, high expectations for the future 
were crushed by increasingly violent fratricidal warfare, which was aggravated by regional and 
international interference, including that of the United States. 



159 


that “At no time. . .did Kissinger call in Easum for a general philosophical discussion of 

how Africa fits in the global scheme of things. Easum’ s only access to Kissinger was via 

staff meetings, one-page nightly ‘report cards’ on the day’s activities, and tightly worded 

210 

cables when Kissinger was out of town.” 

Despite the lack of attention from the Secretary, who openly derided his African 
advisor as “Mr. Guinea-Bissau,” Easum apparently believed in the old adage that the 
squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In the late fall of 1974, he departed on a trip to 

southern Africa in what Oudes has described as “one of the most effective diplomatic 

212 

missions to Africa in the 16-year history of the State Department’s African Bureau.” 

The Assistant Secretary’s attempts to subtly modify American policy in the region during 
that sojourn almost certainly caught the Secretary of State’s attention, especially 
comments such as: “We are using our influence to foster change in South Africa - not to 
preserve the status quo,” made in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on November 2, 1974. The 
next day in Lusaka, Zambia, Easum referred to the recent American veto of the South 
African expulsion vote in the UN. This issue “will certainly arise at some time again in 


210 Bruce Oudes, “the Sacking of the Secretary,” Africa Report 20, no. 1 (January-February 1975): 17. 

211 In mid- 1974, before Guinea-Bissau’s formalized independence from Portugal, the nation had already 
been recognized by over 80 countries and had applied for UN membership. Easum repeatedly 
recommended to Kissinger that the United States not veto Guinea-Bissau’s entry into the United Nations, 
for which he earned the Kissinger-bestowed nickname, “Mr. Guinea-Bissau.” Easum won the day on this 
issue, but only after the country’s formal independence in September 1974. The United States then voted 
for its admission to the UN. 

212 Oudes, “The Sacking of the Secretary,” 17. 



160 


the future and I would imagine that the degree to which South Africa has made 
meaningful changes will determine the stances that various counties will take on the 
expulsion issue at that time.” Even though neither comment theoretically violated the 
spirit of the “communication” policy, they apparently did not sit well with the Secretary 
of State. 213 

Adding insult to injury, at least from Washington’s viewpoint, during his visit to 
Tanzania, and later in Mozambique, Easum also met with Samora Machel, the FRELIMO 
leader. According to Oudes, the assistant secretary “carried out a surprisingly successful 
piece of personal diplomacy.” - Recalling the Nixon-Kissinger conversation over the 

latter’s angst when then Secretary of State Rogers completed his own reportedly 
successful African tour in 1970, it is not a tremendous leap of logic to suggest that 
Kissinger may have again felt upstaged. 

Revolving-Door Assistants 

By the time of Easum’ s trip to southern Africa, the State Department had authorized 
contacts between its Chief of Missions and the various nationalist groups in the 
Portuguese colonies, such as FRELIMO. Moreover, the Portuguese had agreed to grant 


Ibid., 18. 

214 Ibid. See also Bruce Oudes, “US Sacks its Africa Adviser,” the Obsen’er (London), December 22, 
1974, 2. 



161 


Mozambique’s full independence in June 1975, having established a transitional 
government in September 1974 to oversee the decolonization process. Thus, Easum’s 
contacts with Machel and his visit to Mozambique should not have ruffled any feathers in 
Washington. Yet upon his return in late November 1974, Deputy Secretary of State 
Robert Ingersoll informed Easum that he was being relieved of his duties and “rewarded” 
with the ambassadorship to Nigeria. 

There is no one incident in Easum’s brief tenure as Assistant Secretary of State for 
African Affairs that stands out as the main reason for his early departure from the 
position. Rather, it appears that Kissinger desired a more compliant advisor who would 
dutifully carry out policy, leaving the Secretary of State free to deal with more important 
global issues. Easum was careful to use the rhetoric of the “communication” policy, even 
while delicately deviating from the actual intent of the policy. Then too, for a brief 
moment, he occupied center stage in American foreign policy as his speeches during his 
African trip generated international recognition and praise, stealing the spotlight from 
global architect Kissinger. As Bruce Oudes wrote, from Washington, “Many 
observers here - both left and right, black and white - were struck by Kissinger’s 
monumental rigidity in the Easum affair. All he had to do was to sit back and slowly 



162 


gather unto himself the credit for Easum’s highly professional diplomacy. But, as one 

ni c 

diplomat here put it, ‘There are no little Kissingers.’” 

The good will and credibility for American policy that Easum generated during his 
regional tour quickly dissipated as Kissinger officially announced, in early January 1975, 
that Easum would be replaced by the former ambassador to Chile, Nathaniel Davis, who 
entered the office under a cloud of allegations about his purported role in the overthrow 
of Salvador Allende. 216 Davis’ appointment was widely criticized in Africa, not only 
because he had little professional experience on the continent, but also because his 
connection with Chile labeled him, in the minds of many Africans, as the front man for 
American political destabilization policies.” However, according to Roger Morris, 
Davis ostensibly possessed an important trait, at least from Kissinger’s perspective, that 
his predecessor did not. As reported by one State Department official, “We knew from 

9 1 8 

Chile... That Davis was somebody who could follow orders.”” 

As with the case of Donald Easum, however, Kissinger became rapidly disillusioned 
with his new principle African advisor, accusing Davis of manipulating the department’s 


215 Oudes, “The Sacking of the Secretary,” 18. 

~ 16 Davis continues to deny he had any role in Allende’s overthrow. He notes that “Senator Frank Church 
and his Select Committee on Intelligence investigated my role in Chile during the Allende time, and the 
Senator concluded that I ‘never appeared to have actively engaged in covert efforts to subvert the elected 
government of Chile.” Nathaniel Davis, “The Angola Decision of 1975: A Personal Memoir,” Foreign 
Affairs 57, no. 1 (Fall 1978): 109. 

217 Ibid., 110. 

~ |:s Roger Morris, “The Culture of Bureaucracy: A Rare Resignation in Protest: Nat Davis and Angola,” 
The Washington Monthly 7, no. 12 (February 1976): 26. 



163 


administrative processes to withhold information on Angola as that colony moved toward 
independence in 1975.“ As previously discussed, on January 22 1975, the Forty 
Committee, chaired by Kissinger, had authorized $300,000 in “political support” to 
Holden Roberto’s FNLA. As the debate on whether the United States should become 
more involved in Angola continued, Davis began to exhibit an independence of mind that 
not only irritated the Secretary of State, but also caused him to question Davis’ loyalty. 

The final straws in the demise of Kissinger’s second Assistant Secretary for African 
Affairs came in a series of memoranda that Davis wrote between May 1 and July 17, 
1975. In each of these, some sent to directly to Kissinger and others to Under Secretary 
of State, Joseph J. Sisco, but with Kissinger as a copy to addressee, Davis strongly urged 
that the United States seek a diplomatic solution to the Angolan crisis, which by July had 

990 

escalated to the point of full-fledged civil war. 

Davis’s last expression of dissent on the Angolan question, on July 17, came just 
before President Ford authorized the initial and ostensibly covert allocation of $6 million 
to both the FNLA and Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA, a sum that quickly grew to $32 million 


219 Kissinger opined, “The most difficult task for any Secretary of State is to impose a sense of direction on 
the flood of papers that at any moment threatens to engulf him. The system lends itself to manipulation. A 
bureau chief who disagrees with the Secretary can exploit it for procrastination. For example, in 1975 the 
Assistant Secretary in charge of Africa managed to delay my dealing with Angola by nearly ten weeks 
because he opposed the decision he feared I would make. He simply used the splendid machinery so 
methodically to ‘clear’ a memorandum 1 had requested that it took weeks to reach me; when it arrived it 
was diluted of all sharpness and my own staff bounced it back again and again for greater precision - 
thereby serving the bureau chiefs purposes better than my own.” Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, 440. 

- 20 Davis, “A Personal Memoir,” 111-1 16. 



164 


by November 1975, as I will discuss later. When Davis received word of the president’s 
decision, he submitted his resignation, but continued his service with the State 
Department as ambassador to Switzerland. State Department sources told Roger Morris 
that Kissinger was irritated with Davis even before the Angolan memoranda, and that 
Davis had already lost influence with the Secretary even though he had been onboard for 
only a few months. The memoranda convinced Kissinger “that Angola would be one 
Chile too many for Nat.” 221 

Kissinger’s first two African Bureau chiefs had come and departed Foggy Bottom 
within less than a two-year time frame. It is immaterial whether they were pressured to 
resign or did so voluntarily - or a little of both - because of fundamental disagreements 
with the Secretary. Given Kissinger’s indifference to events in sub-Saharan Africa - an 
area of no importance to his global architecture - neither possessed the power or influence 
to convince the Secretary of State that Washington needed to reassess its policy toward 
the region. 

The Winds of Change 

By early 1974, the Nixon-Kissinger effort to create a new structure of peace and “to 
keep the present world going as long as possible,” was showing signs of strain. That 
trend accelerated throughout the year. On the global level, progress in improving 

221 Morris, “The Culture of Bureaucracy,” 29-30. 



165 


relations with both China and the Soviet Union, despite the Vladivostok arms agreement 
with the latter in November, slowed, and eventually stalled. Triangular diplomacy, 
especially detente with the Soviet Union, came to a near standstill partly as a result of 
domestic events. These included, first and foremost, the far-reaching consequences of 
Watergate upon presidential power. Moreover, the election of a Democratic-led 
Congress in the fall of 1974 - one largely determined to rein in executive latitude in 
foreign policy and to avoid another Vietnam - contributed to the decline of the “imperial 
presidency” and to the weakening of the Cold War bi-partisan consensus in Congress. ““ 
Finally, criticisms of detente from both left and right of the political spectrum intensified 
with presidential hopefuls Republican Ronald Reagan and “Hawkish” Democratic 
Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson leading the charge. 223 


222 The comparison between early American involvement in Vietnam and Angola was a central argument in 
the late 1975 congressional debate over the Tunney Amendment (to the Defense Appropriations bill), 
which cut off further short-term funding to the American-backed factions in Angola, and the subsequent 
Clark Amendment of early 1976, which imposed a long-term ban on funding to both the FNLA and 
UNITA via the Foreign Assistance Act. The Clark Amendment was repealed during the Reagan 
Administration. As reported by British journalist Robert Moss, “Senator after Senator recalled the anguish 
of Vietnam, the peril of getting sucked into another quagmire, the hopelessness of trying to shape events in 
a far-off place of which Americans knew nothing.” Robert Moss, “Moscow’s Next Target in Africa: 

Paying the Price for Angola,” The Sunday Telegraph (London), February 20, 1977, 8. I reviewed the 
debate over the Tunney Amendment in the December 1975 Congressional Record , and Mr. Moss’s account 
of the often-made comparisons between Vietnam and Angola is accurate. 

~ 23 Both 1976 presidential contenders criticized detente as a one-way street in which the United States 
catered to and condoned Soviet expansionism while handcuffing itself. They also accused the 
administration of negotiating away American strategic superiority. Moreover, Senator Jackson believed 
that granting Most Favored Nation status to the Soviet Union in trade relations should be linked to Soviet 
concessions on Jewish emigration. To that end, in 1973 he introduced the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to 
The Trade Reform Act. The Act and its amendment eventually passed both houses of Congress in 1974. 



166 


While it is not my intention to focus on these domestic determinants of American 
foreign policy, it is obvious that in the aftermath of the Watergate crisis, they played a 
major role in the weakening of the Oval Office’s previously accorded dominion over 
diplomatic matters." Thus, I will address them as they pertain to or impinge on the 
Ford-Kissinger effort to reassert presidential prerogatives during the Angolan crisis. 

In August 1974, the unelected Vice President Gerald R. Ford entered the White 
House under extremely difficult domestic circumstances. These were exacerbated by the 
rapid and humiliating end to the decades-long American intervention in Southeast Asia. 
Despite the new political realities of the post-Watergate and post-Vietnam era, President 


President Ford signed the bill, which included a variety of global trade and tariff provisions, on January 3, 
1975, but indicated his objection to the amendment, remarking, “I must express my reservations about the 
wisdom of legislative language that can only be seen as objectionable and discriminating by other 
sovereign states.” Garthoff, Detente and Confrontation, 512. 

224 The historiography of Cold War American foreign policy, as observed by historian Jussi M. Hanhimaki, 
a Bernath Memorial lecturer for the Society of Historians of American Foreign Policy, is notably lacking in 
examinations of the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy. See Jussi M. Hanhimaki, “Global 
Visions and Parochial Politics: The Persistent Dilemma of the ‘American Century’,” Diplomatic History 
27, no. 4 (September 2003): 423-447. However, there have been a few solid studies on this neglected area. 
Thomas J. Noer concluded in his study on the Ford administration’s response to the Angolan crisis that 
domestic politics are almost always significant, and at times dominant, in the making of American foreign 
policy. Thomas J. Noer, “International Credibility and Political Survival: The Ford Administration’s 
Intervention in Angola,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 23, no. 4 (Fall 1993): 771-785. Another good 
analysis of the link between the domestic political environment and foreign policy is historian Robert 
David Johnson’s “The Unintended Consequences of Congressional Reform: The Clark and Tunney 
Amendments and U.S. Policy toward Angola,” Diplomatic History 27, no. 2 (April 2003): 215-243. 

Noer’s work is very broad in scope and includes an analysis of Watergate, the 1976 presidential election, 
investigations of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the increasing attacks on detente from domestic 
critics of the policy. Johnson’s work focuses on the evolution of the Cold War congressional culture as the 
legislative branch sought to re-assert itself into the mainstream of foreign policy decision-making. Both 
use the Angolan crisis of 1974-1976 as a timely case study to examine the executive branch’s ability to 
conduct foreign policy in the aftermath of Watergate and Vietnam. 



167 


Ford would try to build upon what he saw as his predecessor’s successes in creating “a 
new foundation for peace.” Like Kissinger, the new president believed that America’s 
long and unsuccessful involvement in Vietnam had weakened American credibility to the 
point where, as he tells us in his memoirs, “many old friends and neutrals were moving 
away from us.” However, Nixon’s initiatives toward Moscow and Beijing had “defused 
the trend against us,” and “U.S. prestige begin to rise again.” It was his intention to 
continue that upswing, assisted by Henry Kissinger, whose global real-politik perspective 
had impressed Ford during eight months of weekly briefings as the Watergate affair ran 

225 

its course." 

Conclusion 

Besides the empowerment of Henry Kissinger, the first two years of the Nixon White 
House, especially during the Cambodian and fall crises of 1970, also reveal much about 
the geo-strategic mind set and decision-making style of the president and his principal 
deputy on foreign policy. First, at the global level, they situated every crisis, no matter 
how insignificant or peripheral to American interests, within the East-West struggle. 

This perspective pertained even if there was only a remote possibility that the Soviet 
Union, or one of its alleged client states, was involved. Their near obsession with the 
“Communists” stemmed from the belief (sometimes warranted) that Moscow and its so- 

225 Gerald R. Ford, A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford (New York: Harper & Row, 
Publishers, Inc., 1979), 128-129. 



168 


called proxies were continually seeking to gain geo-political advantages at the expense of 
the United States. It also reflected their zero-sum approach to power politics. Any 
perceived “win” for the Communists became a “loss” for the United States, and vice 
versa. Within this Manichean world view, there was very little room for their recognition 
or acceptance of nationalist Leftist movements or non-alignment in global affairs. 

To dissuade alleged Soviet or Soviet- sponsored adventurism, they considered it 
essential for the United States to display toughness, often, but not always, in the form of 
violent action. Their hard-nosed approach became the sine qua non for rescuing 
American credibility. The Cambodian crisis of the spring of 1970 provides such an 
example. While the South Vietnamese provided the majority of the ground forces, they 
were heavily supported by the United States military. Despite his adviser’s warnings 
about the domestic backlash from the invasion, Nixon was convinced that the military 
operation, even if successful only in the short term, would signal to the Cambodian and 
North Vietnamese Communists that the United States was determined to play hard ball. 
Moreover, it helped to demonstrate the American commitment to the pro-American 
governments of both Cambodia and South Vietnam. 

In contrast, the Cienfuegos crisis was a case of tough talk since threatening or using 
military force against the submarine facility could raise the stakes to a nuclear 
confrontation. Supported by Secretary of State Rogers, Nixon was at first reluctant to 



169 


publicly confront the Soviet Union, especially after Moscow had privately stated its 
intention, in August 1970, to abide by the 1962 understanding regarding no offensive 
weapons in Cuba. However, Kissinger’s more belligerent posture eventually won out. 
His public declarations on the gravity with which Washington viewed the issue, as well 
as his frank talks with Ambassador Dobrynin in September and early October, after 
which the Soviets reiterated their adherence to the 1962 agreement, apparently convinced 
the White House that the Soviets had “retreated” on the issue only because of the resolute 
American stance. 

In the era of the Nixon Doctrine, with a strategically powerful Soviet Union, the 
propensity to confront the “Communists” most often meant either reliance upon covert 
operations or a strong regional ally supplied with American arms, rather than direct 
American military involvement. The sabotage of the Allende government and the Israeli 
involvement in the Jordanian crisis, in which Syria became the token Soviet client state, 
exemplified these two aspects of the Nixon Doctrine, respectively. Moreover, as had 
been the case in the Cuban crisis, in the Middle East, the White House was convinced 
that American toughness had forced the Soviet Union to back down. 226 


~ 2b In his memoirs, Nixon tells us that he was satisfied that the three-year covert effort against Allende had 
eventually helped in his demise. Still, he regretted that the United States had been unable to prevent 
Allende from coming to power in October 1970. As he recalled, “At least in 1970 in Jordan and Cuba, 
their [the “Communists”] probing had encountered our unmistakable steel.” Richard M. Nixon, RN (New 
York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1978), 490; quoted in Isaacson, Kissinger , 313. 



170 


Their confrontational tendencies also led President Nixon and Kissinger to overstate 
not only the extent of Soviet involvement, as in the Jordanian crisis, but also to 
exaggerate the outcome to show that American firmness had caused the other side to 
blink first. In that sense, then, the Soviet Union became the whipping boy for the White 
House’s attempts to visibly demonstrate American credibility and leadership and their 
personal competence in foreign affairs. 

Secondly, at the national level, Nixon and Kissinger were committed to consolidating 
all foreign policy decision making in the White House. For the most part, this meant 
circumventing those bureaucracies most concerned with international affairs, the State 
and Defense Departments, as much as possible. Among other devices, they used a variety 
of ad hoc communications methods, generally termed “back channel,” to cut off both 
organizations from the main flow of critical information. Back-channel communications 
allowed the White House to control and limit access to information, while ostensibly 
preventing leaks. More importantly, from the Oval Office perspective, it restricted the 
influence of the “uninformed” departments and their respective leaders, making it easier 
to ignore them. 

The three-year effort to destroy the Allende government provides an example of this 
characteristic of White House foreign policy making. Nixon did not want either the 
State Department, including the American ambassador in Santiago, or the Department of 



171 


Defense even marginally involved in the covert operation. Kissinger, in effect, became 
the president’s back-channel means for controlling the program. The national security 
adviser acted as Nixon’s point man with the CIA’s Deputy Director of Plans, Thomas 
Karames sines, who was responsible for overseeing the operation on behalf of the White 
House. 227 

Finally, at the personal level, Nixon’s desire to control foreign policy from the Oval 
Office and to limit decision making to a small inner circle, a passion shared by Kissinger, 
ensured the latter’s growing influence in diplomatic affairs, while at the same time 
diminishing that of both Rogers at State and Laird at Defense. Nixon appreciated 
Kissinger’s real-politik perspective, which essentially mirrored his own. Moreover, 
Kissinger’s loyalty and hard-nosed approach to the crises of 1970 further strengthened his 
foreign policy credentials with the frequently truculent president. 

Henry Kissinger would carry these lessons learned from his Nixon White House years 
with him to the Ford presidency. Both the substance and style of his geo-strategic 
perspective would dominate American foreign policy throughout the Ford 
Administration, even though the new administration faced a very different domestic 
political climate and a changing global environment. The continuity would manifest 
itself both in Washington’s reaction to the Portuguese coup of April 1974 and the ensuing 

227 


Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger , 235. 



172 


leftward tilt of the new regime, and in American decision-making on the growing 
instability in Angola in the aftermath of Lisbon’s decision to grant independence to its 
African colonies. Because of its policy of indifference towards sub-Saharan Africa, as 
discussed, most of official Washington failed to recognize, or simply ignored, the fact 
that the status quo was about to change in southern Africa, and that this affected the 
premises upon which the Option Two policy had been based. Those who tried to make 
this point, especially Mr. Easum, were disregarded or dismissed. . 

To comprehend the difficulties of Angola’s violent decolonization process, which 
included multiple foreign military interventions, it is first necessary to have an 
understanding of the extremely volatile and mercurial situation in Portugal itself. 

Lisbon’s post-coup political instability in 1974, which continued throughout most of 
1975, adversely affected its ability to adequately manage the Angolan situation. 

It is also important to understand Angola’ s unique place in the Lusitanian empire and 
its own internal political dynamics, which included a very sizable white settler population 
and three competing black national liberations that disliked each other as much as they 
disliked the Portuguese. These circumstances made Angola very different from 
Portugal’s other two major African colonies, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. They 
complicated Angola’s path to independence and provided a great potential for external 
interference in its decolonization process. The following two chapters will address all 



173 


these issues as well as the Ford Administration’s attitude and policy toward Portugal 
during its lengthy political crisis and the related issue of decolonization, especially that of 
Angola. 



174 


CHAPTER 3 

1974: PORTUGAL IN CRISIS 

“We have no desire to construct a neocolonial community .” 

MFA Officer 228 

“ The need in Portugcd, as I see it, is to keep a very cool 
approach in a situation whose alarmist aspects could well be over-stated. ” 

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield 229 

This chapter will briefly explain the circumstances that precipitated the Portuguese 
coup of April 25, 1974. These included the seemingly endless and unwinnable colonial 
wars in Africa that added to the growing widespread discontent within Portugal’s Armed 
Forces. The revolt was led by a small group of junior officers calling themselves the 
Armed Forces Movement (MFA). Most had served lengthy tours in the African colonies 
where many became radicalized I will also review, again briefly, the volatile political 
situation in Portugal in the first few months following the coup as Lisbon entered a 
period of instability and crisis. This time frame was most notably punctuated by the 
power struggle between the moderates in the MFA and their military and civilian 
supporters and the more radical officers, largely supported by the Portuguese Communist 


228 As told to French journalist Jean Daniel of Le Nouvel Obsen’ature, and quoted in Kenneth Maxwell, 
“Portugal and Africa: The Last Empire,” in The Transfer of Power in Africa: Decolonization, 1 940-1 960, 
eds. Prosser Gifford and William Rogers Louis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), 359. 

229 “Letter from Senator Mike Mansfield to President Ford, Subject: Report from Senator Mike Mansfield 
Concerning the Situation in Portugal,” August 22, 1975, p. 7, National Security Adviser - Presidential 
Country Files for Europe and Canada, Portugal (5), Box 10, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



175 


Party, over the direction of Lisbon’s political future and the status of its African colonies. 
The MFA was committed to independence for the African colonies and quickly 
announced its intentions to decolonize. However, the issue, especially the direction and 
pace of the path to independence, divided Portuguese politics following the coup and 
contributed to the rise and fall of a succession of provisional governments, with each one 
becoming increasingly left-leaning in its political orientation. 

I will also discuss the American attitude and response to the Portuguese coup, the 
ensuing mercurial political situation, and the decolonization issue. Washington viewed 
these events, especially the leftward tilt of the succeeding provisional governments, with 
great trepidation. American relations with Portugal, its NATO ally, had been close 
during the Nixon Administration, in part the result of Washington’s Option Two policy 
toward southern Africa, as discussed in Chapter 1. Moreover, President Nixon was 
especially grateful for Portugal’s support for the American efforts to re- supply Israel 
during the October 1973 Middle East War. He sent Henry Kissinger to Lisbon in late 
1973 to express Washington’s appreciation for the use of the Azores air facilities during 
the war. 230 


230 Kissinger’s Lisbon visit followed an earlier meeting with the Portuguese foreign minister in Brussels, 
Belgium on December 9, 1973. Of concern to both parties at the time was not only the consequences of 
Portuguese support for the United States during the Yom Kippur war (the Arab oil boycott, for example, 
included Portugal), but impending negotiations over continued American access to the Azores, especially 
the air base at Lajes, whose lease was scheduled to expire in early February 1974. Foreign Minister 



176 


The April 1974 coup and the subsequent changes in Portugal’s political direction 
disrupted Washington’s tight-knit relationship with Lisbon. Moreover, although the 
Portuguese decision to free its African colonies undermined the assumptions of the 
Option 2 policy, the White House’s “business as usual” response proved ineffective in 
accurately assessing the significantly changed regional dynamic in southern Africa, 
thereby contributing to the ill-advised decision to intervene in the Angolan conflict. 

Prelude to a Coup 

When Kissinger met with Portuguese Prime Minister Marcello Caetano in December 
1973, the Portuguese coup was nearly five months in the future and the Angolan crisis 
was still on the distant horizon. Nevertheless, events were coalescing that would 
ultimately bring independence to that nation as well as Portugal’s other African colonies 
- Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, San Tome and Principe, and Mozambique. Not the least 
of these historical junctures was the publication of General Antonio de Spinola’s book, 


Patricio used this opportunity to ask for American anti-aircraft missiles for use in Africa where, he argued, 
“In the past the U.S. has said about the agreement that it could not go further in meeting our needs because 
of public opinion. We accepted that at the time, although we felt that the embargo against equipment was 
unfair and led to an imbalanced situation because of the constant flow of modern Soviet equipment to our 
opponents. However, in the last two years the situation has evolved. Now, we can be attacked by air in 
Guinea and Cabinda. We depend on Cabinda for oil.” Kissinger’s reply was “You need Hawk missiles.” 
The conversation concluded with Kissinger’s promise to attempt to provide such missiles, via Israel 
perhaps, despite the restriction on Portuguese use of American arms in her African colonies. The deal was 
never consummated, however, as four and one-half months later the MFA overthrew the government of 
Marcello Caetano. Memorandum of Conversation, “Subject: Secretary’s Bilateral Discussion with 
Portuguese Foreign Minister, December 9, 1973,” pp. 4-5, White House Country Files - Portugal, Box 
701, Vol. II, National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), College Park, MD. 



Ill 


Portugal and the Future , in February 1974. The book was highly critical of Portugal’s 
African wars. It argued that a political, not military, solution was the only way for 
Portugal to extricate itself from the colonial struggles while still maintaining influence in 
the overseas territories. Spinola, then Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, had 
previously served in Guinea-Bissau as governor and commander-in-chief of the territorial 
forces. Upon his return to Portugal in 1973, he was awarded the country’s highest 
military decoration. The fact that the government of Prime Minister Caetano allowed the 
general’s book to be published spoke to Spinola’ s stature and immense popularity among 
Portugal’s citizenry. 

While the general public enthusiastically received Portugal and the Future , its 
publication worried extreme right-wing forces in the Caetano regime. As a result, on 
March 14, the prime minister met with the leadership of his military forces to obtain an 
oath of loyalty to his regime. Spinola refused to take the pledge. His immediate superior, 
General Francisco da Costa Gomes, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces who had 
endorsed Spinola’ s book, also refused. Consequently, Caetano dismissed General 
Spinola from his position on 15 March 1974, along with General Costa GomesC The 


231 According to journalist Jose Shercliffe, the greatest consternation over Spinola’s book came from within 
Portugal’s “ultra right-wing circles and President Tomas who had urged his dismissal.” Jose Shercliffe, 
“Sad Last Chapter to a General’s Book,” The Times (London), March 16, 1974, p. 4. Journalist and author. 
Tad Szulc, supports this view. In his analysis of the rise to power of the junior officer-dominated Armed 
Forces Movement (MFA), he argues, “Caetano had dismissed Costa Gomes and Spinola, considered as too 



178 


generals’ dismissals added to the widespread excitement caused by Spinola’s book and 
sparked the growing discontent within the Portuguese military, triggered in part by the 
seemingly endless and unwinnable colonial wars. 

Restiveness within the armed forces centered on a small group of junior officers, most 
of whom had served lengthy tours in the African colonies where many became 
radicalized. - Originally calling themselves the Movement of Captains when they 
covertly formed in the summer of 1973, they subsequently changed their name to the 
Armed Forces Movement (MFA), probably to accommodate the more senior officers who 
joined, or at least condoned, the actions of the original group of coup makers. General 
Spinola was in the group of condoners. 


liberal in terms of the existing Lisbon establishment, to fend off a coup that a group of ultra rightist 
generals were planning against him, coinciding with the MFA conspiracy. The ‘ultras,’ allied with Admiral 
Americo Tomas, the president, wanted to remove Caetano largely because he allowed Spinola to publish 
his book, Portugal and the Future .. .The book became a best seller overnight; Spinola became the hero of 
the young officers who had been preparing their revolution since December 1973.” Tad Szulc, “Lisbon and 
Washington: Behind the Portuguese Revolution,” Foreign Policy 21 (Fall - Winter 1975-76): 18-19. 

232 The continuing African wars were but one of many grievances which motivated the coterie of no more 
than 200 captains and majors to form the MFA in mid-1973. As analyzed by Kenneth Maxwell, the junior 
officer corps also directed their increasing anger at issues concerning pay, promotions and loss of prestige, 
the latter at least in part due to the army’s inability to quash the African liberation movements and its 
humiliation in Goa at the hands of the Indian army. These were aggravated by the group’s perception (a 
correct one) of widespread corruption among the officer corps’ upper echelons and by class frictions 
between the lower and upper ranks. Moreover, these junior officers were the ones who bore the brunt of 
the African wars where, they discovered, they had more in common with those they were fighting than with 
those in the metropole who had sent them to fight. Maxwell wrote that one MFA officer, who had spent 
more time in Africa than in Portugal, observed, “We were at war... with people who speak the same 
language. We had little sense of racial difference, much less of culture. Badly supplied, badly equipped, 
very quickly we came to resemble the guerrillas.” Another discussion with a different member of the MFA 
revealed that, “Long conversations with prisoners were ‘truly a political initiation.’” Kenneth Maxwell, 
“The Hidden Revolution in Portugal,” The New York Review of Books XXII, no. 6 (17 April 1975): 30-31. 



179 


Disgruntlement within the military was but a symptom of a profound malaise within 
Portuguese society, writ large. The structural context within which the armed forces 
operated consisted of a stagnated economy, a repressive political system that tolerated 
little or no opposition, and a population whose political freedoms and human rights were 
increasingly restricted. These socio-economic conditions persisted, despite Prime 
Minister Caetano’s promises of economic and political reform upon his succession to 
office in 1968 following the incapacitation and subsequent death (in 1970) of his 
predecessor, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.” The colonial wars only served to exacerbate 
Portugal’s societal illnesses. 

Instead of improvement following Caetano’s ascension to power, Portugal’s situation, 
especially in the economic sphere, continued to deteriorate as the colonial wars consumed 
more and more of the nation’s dwindling material and manpower wealth. By the 1974 
military coup, then, Portugal was Western Europe’s poorest country, little more than a 


~ 33 Gerald Bender’s analysis of the military coup in Portugal notes that, “When Marcello Caetano assumed 
power in September 1968, he offered Portugal the hope that he, and the new faces he brought with him, 
could solve the major social, economic, and political ills -including the colonial problems -which plagued 
the tiny country.” During his first year in office, “Caetano looked and sounded like a radical in comparison 
with his predecessor.” However, the regime proved unable, or unwilling, to resolve the pathological 
problems, including the colonial wars, which continued to plague the nation. Gerald J. Bender, “Portugal 
and Her Colonies Join the Twentieth Century,” Ufahamy IV, no. 3 (Winter 1974): 121. 



180 


Third World nation itself. While the coup itself was fomented and carried out by a 
small group of radical and highly politicized officers, Portugal’s economic, political and 
social difficulties provided a ripe revolutionary environment for the coup makers. Thus, 
this military coup, as noted by journalist Tad Szulc, “quickly developed symptoms of a 
disorderly but deep social revolution. 

The Coup and its Aftermath 

Prime Minister Caetano’s ouster of both General Spinola and Costa Gomes on March 
15 immediately led to a premature, and unsuccessful, coup attempt the next day, when 
some 300 members of an infantry regiment headquartered at Caldas da Rainha, just north 


234 Kenneth Maxwell’s interviews with several of the MFA leaders make clear that Portugal, compared to 
Western Europe, was severely underdeveloped in its socio-economic and political life. In that sense, it was 
not unlike its colonies. For example, one officer noted, “What we saw was that Portugal was itself part of 
the third world. Lisbon and Oporto were an illusion, the country within was underdeveloped with an 
illiterate and exploited peasantry.” Maxwell, “The Hidden Revolution in Portugal,” 31. Historian Gerald J. 
Bender observed that Portugal’s expenditure on defense, especially the costs of maintaining troops in the 
colonies where they continued to struggle with the ever-growing insurgencies, consumed 40-50% of the 
national budget and an increasing number of its young men who were conscripted to fight in the colonies. 
Gerald J. Bender, “The Limits of Counterinsurgency: An African Case,” Comparative Politics 4, no. 3 
(April 1972): 331. Among the rich historiography of the multifarious reasons for and consequences of the 
Portuguese coup, I found the following studies of particular value: Gerald J. Bender, “Portugal and Her 
Colonies Join the Twentieth Century: Causes and Implications of the Military Coup.” Ufahamy IV, no. 3 
(Winter 1974): 121-162; Norrie MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa: Metropolitan 
Revolution and the Dissolution of Empire. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1997; Kenneth 
Maxwell, “The Hidden Revolution in Portugal.” The New York Review of Books XXII, no. 6(17 April 
1975): 29-35, “Portugal under Pressure.” 77ze New York Review of Books XXII, no. 9 (29 May 1975): 20- 
30, and “The Thorns of the Portuguese Revolution,” Foreign Affairs 54, no. 2 (January 1976): 250-270; 
Tad Szulc, “Lisbon and Washington: Behind the Portuguese Revolution.” Foreign Policy 21 (Winter 
1975-76): 3-62; John A. Marcum, The Angolan Revolution, vol. I, The Anatomy of an Explosion (1950- 
1969). Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1969, and The Angolan Revolution, vol. II, Exile Politics and 
Guerrilla Warfare ( 1962-1976 ), Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1978. 

235 Szulc, “Lisbon and Washington,” 7. 



181 


of Lisbon, attempted to march on the capital. A loyal cavalry unit, supported by light 
artillery, stopped and disarmed the rebellious troops just outside of Lisbon without a shot 
being fired . 236 Some of the would-be coup makers managed to escape and returned to 
their barracks. Later, however, units of the regime’s dedicated security force, the 
Republic Guards, surrounded the barracks and arrested the rebels. As a result, the revolt 
was short-lived, and a superficial and temporary calm returned to Lisbon and its 
environs. Still, the February and March sequence of events represented the first stages 
of a rapidly building revolutionary situation. From this moment in Portuguese history, 

238 

there is a direct narrative line to the coup." 


236 Miguel Acoca, “Portugal Mutiny Put Down,” Washington Post, March 17, 1974, sec. A, p. 1. Acoca 
was on assignment in Lisbon. 

237 Miguel Acoca tells us that some members of the MFA’s Coordinating Committee, an inner group of 
coup-makers that represented the center of power in the Armed Forces Movement, alleged that the March 
16 th uprising was merely “a dry run to determine the reactive capacity of the deposed government.” Miguel 
Acoca, “Lisbon Officer Questions Long-term U.S. Intentions,” Washington Post, May 24, 1974. 

238 The House Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Representative Otis Pike (D-NY), which 
investigated the American intelligence community in the wake of allegations about inappropriate and 
illegal conduct and various intelligence failures, called attention to the significance of the February and 
March 1974 events. The committee’s report noted in part, “The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence 
and Research had not analyzed events in Portugal in the month before the April coup. In retrospect, four 
warning signals, beginning in late February and continuing through mid-March, 1974, should have sparked 
‘speculation at that time that a crisis of major proportions was brewing.’” Among the four warning signals 
were: the publication of Spinola’s book; the refusal of Generals Costa Gomes and Spinola to take part in a 
regime-sponsored demonstration of unity for Caetano and his government and their subsequent ouster; the 
unsuccessful March coup attempt; the government’s crackdown on suspected “leftist” within the 
government, including the armed forces, as well as within the general population. “The CIA Report the 
President Doesn’t Want You to Read,” The Village Voice 21, no. 7 (February 16, 1976): 79. The Ford 
Administration barred the report from public release. However, journalist Daniel Schorr managed to 
surreptitiously obtain a copy, and The Village Voice published it. 



182 


On April 25, the young officer’s of the MFA executed their early morning coup 
efficiently and with a minimum of bloodshed. They immediately seized the country’s 
major public broadcasting network. Radio Clube Portugues, and requested that the public 
remain calm and indoors. Prime Minister Caetano and several of his ministers fled to the 
loyalist Republic Guards’ barracks, which rebelling units subsequently stormed. 
According to news reports, those inside quickly surrendered. General Spinola arrived at 
the barracks to personally accept the surrender of the prime minister who, along with four 
of his cabinet officials and President Tomas, left the country that evening for exile in 
Madeira. 239 

That same evening, rebelling units also attacked and captured the headquarters of the 
PIDE (Secret Police). Allegedly, shots had been fired from inside the building before the 
assault, killing six civilians and wounding another ten. This was the only reported 
incident of casualties occurring as a direct result of the coup. Following this incident, the 
MFA broadcast it had complete control over the country, and again requested that the 
public remain calm and stay indoors. This time, they also thanked the citizenry for its 


239 “Dr. Caetano and Ministers Sent into Exile after Army Seizes Power,” The Times (London), April 26, 
1974, 1. Also, Jose Shercliff, “General Spinola Included in Seven-Man Junta, The Times (London), April 
26, 1974, 1. 



183 


support, which included, “obeying all orders, cheering them, and giving them cigarettes, 
food, newspapers and even flowers.” 240 

For almost three weeks, the Junta of National Salvation (JSN) - the MFA’s leadership 
council, led by General Spinola and composed of more senior officers - essentially 
governed the country. On May 14, however, the JSN established the first provisional 
government, with General Spinola as its president and Adelino da Palma Carlos, an aging 
professor and liberal, as the prime minister. Spinola’ s previous record as a stalwart pro- 
regime general made him an unlikely candidate not only to head the JSN, but also to be 
named as president of the first provisional government. According to Kenneth Maxwell, 
most of the MFA’s youthful leadership actually preferred General Costa Gomes, who 
was more aware of and in tune with the Movement’s intentions. However, “the 
publication of Spinola’s book in February, 1974, and the internal and international stir it 
caused made his choice inevitable. ” The coup leaders, then, apparently selected the 

prestigious Spinola to validate a coup engineered by a group of largely unknown junior 


240 Ibid. 

241 Maxwell, “The Hidden Revolution in Portugal,” 30-31. One officer of the MFA, who was interviewed in 
June 1974 by Manchester Guardian journalist, Wilfred Burchett, gave these reasons for the selection of 
General Spinola to both the JSN and presidency of the first provisional government. Identifying himself 
only as a captain and commanding officer of an artillery unit who helped plan and carry out the coup, he 
said, “...we considered him honest, courageous, patriotic, a good officer, just and impartial, who 
maintained close personal relations with his officers and men. He was an officer of great prestige. The 
book which he wrote, demanding a political instead of military solution in Africa, was as a result of his 
contacts with officers of the Armed Forces Movement. One of his merits was that he dared oppose the 
official line.” Wilfred Burchett, “Is Portugal Marching Backward?” Manchester Guardian, June 26, 1974. 



184 


officers whose credibility and survivability depended, at least initially, upon members of 
the old guard. 

The new government was largely civilian. The Socialists were appointed to several 
positions, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an assignment given to the party’s 
leader, Mario Soares. The Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), a strong supporter of the 
MFA, garnered two seats in the cabinet. Alvaro Cunhal, head of the PCP, was appointed 
minister-without-portfolio, and Avelino Pacheco Goncalves was designated as the labor 
minister, an especially important post given widespread labor unrest following the coup 
and Portugal’s declining economic situation. According to Tad Szulc’s assessment of the 
first provisional government, the anti-Communist Spinola preferred representation by all 
the political groupings that surfaced in the coup’s aftermath.' ' In the case of the PCP, 
Spinola’ s thinking was that the Communists “were too important to be ignored; he 
preferred them in rather than out of the government. Soares and his Socialists interposed 
no objections .” 243 


242 The governments of both Antonio de Oliveira Salazar and his successor, Marcello Caetano, had virtually 
banned all political parties dining the fascist era in Portuguese politics (1926-1974). Following the coup, a 
host of parties, or movements, covering the full political spectrum, emerged from the underground. The 
Socialist Party, headed by Mario Soares, and the Portuguese Communist Party, led by Alvaro Cunhal, were 
organized, disciplined, and well placed to assume major roles in the new government after nearly five 
decades of clandestine activities and exiled existence 

243 Szulc, ’’Lisbon and Washington,” 23-24. The CIA’s own assessment of the composition of the first 
provisional government supports Szulc’s analysis of the reasons for inclusion of the PCP. In early May 
1974, CIA’s analysts noted that “Soares is in favor of including Communists in the provisional government 
on grounds that it will be better to have the Communists share cabinet responsibility than leave them on the 



185 


While ostensibly in control as the new head of state, General Spinola’s powers were 
largely circumscribed by the MFA’s Coordinating Committee, the very small, inner circle 
of the Movement’s officer leadership that remained the real power broker in the 
Portuguese political scene. Moreover, Portugal’s politics were deeply split between two 
opposing coalitions. Spinola was supported by the moderate elements in both the MFA 
and the political parties represented in the new government, including the Socialists and 
the centrist People’s Democratic Party. In opposition stood the more radical officers of 
the MFA, who dominated the Coordinating Committee, the Communist Party, and a 
number of left-leaning political movements that had sprung up in the aftermath of the 
coup. It didn’t take long for Spinola to realize that his thinking about Portugal’s future, 
as well as that of the Lusitanian empire, conflicted with that of the powerful left bloc. As 
Portuguese historian, Fernando Andresen Guimaraes has observed, “It soon became clear 
that Spinola was not in complete control. . .Barely a month after his appointment, Spinola 
and the MFA were already on a collision course .” 244 

The first provisional government’s internal fissures led to political gridlock, and the 
country’s political and economic situation, not well to begin with, further deteriorated. 


outside to criticize. He emphasized that the Communists would be denied sensitive portfolios such as the 
foreign, defense, and interior ministry posts.” Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Current Intelligence, 
“Portugal: Filling the Gap,” Weekly Review (Washington, D.C., May 10, 1974), p. 5 [database on-line]; 
available from http://www.foia.cia.gov. 

244 Fernando Andresen Guimaraes, The Origins of the Angolan Civil War: Foreign Intervention and 
Domestic Political Conflict (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 87. 



186 


Moreover, the power struggle between General Spinola and the MFA deepened, 
increasing the deadlock and leading to the demise of the first provisional government in 
early July 1974. The change in government saw the civilian prime minister, Adelino da 
Palma Carlos, and four cabinet members resign, three of whom were civilians and 
members of the centrist Popular Democratic Party, part of the pro-Spinola political 
coalition. Significantly, the MFA’s Coordinating Committee rejected General Spinola’ s 
handpicked successor to the premiership - the Minister of Defense and close ally, 
Lieutenant Colonel Mario Firmino Miguel. Instead, the Committee named the leftist, 
Colonel Vasco dos Santos Goncalves, one of the few more senior members of the 
Coordinating Committee, as the new provisional prime minister. 

The military dominated the second provisional government. In addition to Colonel 
Goncalves’ appointment as prime minister, seven of the previously civilian-headed 
cabinet posts also went to military men, including the Ministry of Labor, which the 
Communist Party had held. The MFA’s power was further enhanced with the creation of 
the Continental Operations Command on July 13, which effectively took control of the 


245 General Spinola introduced Goncalves as the new prime minister by referring to him as “the Brain of the 
April 25 coup.” “Army Men Get Key Posts in Portugal’s New Cabinet,” New York Times , July 18, 1974, 1, 
and Henry Giniger, “Portuguese Colonel Named Premier; Military-Dominated Cabinet Expected,” New 
York Times , July 14, 1974, 8. 



187 


Portuguese Armed Forces away from the government and placed them under the direct 
command of the MFA . 246 

A number of pressing issues, both domestic and colonial, contributed to the shakeup. 
According to a special report to the New York Times , the July political crisis and the 
formation of a military-dominated government represented a move by the MFA to take 
direct control over the country’s domestic affairs. MFA leaders feared the revolution, for 
which they had risked their lives, was being subverted by the inability of the civilians in 
the first provisional government to reach consensus and thus provide united leadership 
and direction on a number of important issues. They also suspected, rightly so, that 
Spinola had his own personal political agenda for Portugal’s future. The MFA leaders 
“were disturbed by the general unrest in the country, characterized by strikes, slowdowns, 
demonstrations, endless meetings and a defiance of authority that have affected the public 
services and private industry, and were said to have resented what looked like a power 
grab by President Spinola in the form of a proposal to stage a quick presidential election 

247 

at a time when free political life was only just beginning.” 

Henry Giniger, who closely covered the early months of the Portuguese revolution for 
the New York Times, confirmed this analysis but also added that significant colonial 
problems, especially racial clashes in both Mozambique and Angola, played a role in the 

246 Guimaraes, The Origins of the Angolan Civil War, 87. 

247 “Army Men Get Key Posts in Portugal’s New Cabinet,” 1. 



188 


dissolution of the first government. “An end to the political crisis was given urgency by 
the rapidly deteriorating situation in Portugal’s two major African territories, 
Mozambique and Angola, where splits between the back majorities and white minorities 
sharpened .” 248 

The MFA and Decolonization 

The demonstrations of white resentment and backlash in the African colonies, as noted 
above, deeply concerned the MFA. The question of reactionary whites issuing a 
“unilateral declaration of independence,” in the mode of the Ian Smith regime in 
Rhodesia, was always a possibility . 249 Such an event in any of the colonies would have 


~ 48 Henry Giniger, “Portuguese Colonel Named Premier; Military-Dominated Cabinet Expected, New York 
Times , July 14, 1974, 8. See also Henry Giniger, “Portugal’s New Premier Works to Form Cabinet to End 
Crisis,” New York Times , July 15, 1974, 3. 

249 The MFA continually worried about internal and external interference with the decolonization process, 
which is the main reason why the independence talks with both the PAIGC and FRELIMO were conducted 
with great secrecy and expediency. The Movement’s concerns about dissident white settlers, supported by 
disgruntled former military and secret police (PIDE) officials, and perhaps receiving support from 
Portuguese reactionary groups in the metropole, were not unfounded. In October 1974, for example. 
Admiral Antonio Rosa Coutinho, the top MFA commander in Luanda, uncovered a plot by “an extremist 
organization of reactionary tendency” whose aim was to declare “a Rhodesia-type independence in 
Angola.” Luanda’s main daily, A Provincia de Angola , quoted the Admiral as having identified the plotters 
as civilians, military officials, and former agents of PIDE who had “strong financial backing from outside 
the country.” Admiral Coutinho also said these actions were meant, “to coincide with a seditious 
movement in Portugal,” which sought to destabilize the Lisbon government. Jose Shercliff, “Two Right- 
Wing Plots Uncovered in Angola,” The Times (London), October 29, 1974, 11. Historian Norrie 
MacQueen has also analyzed this Luandan crisis. While questioning whether or not the plot was part of a 
larger Portuguese-African conspiracy, as claimed by Admiral Coutinho, MacQueen wrote that the white 
extremist movement, the Revolutionary Angolan Front (FRA), whose leader was a former Portuguese 
military officer by the name of Pompilio da Cruz, “attempted to succeed where Mocambique Livre had 
failed.” (The Free Mozambique, or “Mocambique Livre,” Movement, composed mainly of disgruntled 
whites, had attempted to overthrow the established transitional government in Mozambique in the fall of 
1974.) According to the author, the MFA members in Angola were better established and organized than 



189 


serious repercussions not only for the MFA’s goal of rapid decolonization, but also for 
the course of the revolution in Portugal itself. If it were to materialize, the demoralized 
and listless Portuguese colonial army could easily be caught up in a racial war - trapped 
between angry and armed white settlers, perhaps quietly supported by the South African 
and Rhodesian regimes, and the majority black populations, also angry, armed, and 
spearheaded by nationalists groups that would never consent to white minority rule. The 
MFA worried that if the colonial army were ordered to restore order it would either 
refuse such orders, probably with large defections, or carry them out ineffectively. In the 
post-coup environment, the MFA correctly assessed the mood of the colonial army: no 
soldier wanted to be the last one to die for the Portuguese “civilizing mission.”" 

Moreover, The MFA believed that an order to the colonial army to intervene in the 
event of racial conflict, with its anticipated consequences, would seriously disrupt the 


those in Mozambique and were able to rapidly and effectively move against the disorganized rebel forces. 
The rebellion was squashed, although further threats from other reactionary white groups continued to 
surface throughout the next several months. For all intents and purposes, however, after the defeat of the 
FRA and the arrest of its leadership, “The forces of white separatism now lost momentum.” MacQueen, 
The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa , 170. Then Pravda journalist, Oleg Ignatyev, who spent time in 
Luanda in the fall of 1974, alleged that Cruz and his FRA, as well as several other white right-wing 
political movements, were closely connected to South Africa, implying that the movement was supported 
by that country and indicating not only a high South African interest in Angolan internal events, but also 
perhaps setting a precedent for its later, massive invasion of Angola. Oleg Ignatyev, “Angola on the 
Threshold of Change,” New Times (Moscow), no. 46 (November 1974): 15. See also, Oleg Ignatyev, 
Secret Weapon in Africa, passim. 

250 lournalist Henry Kamm reported in lune that from the April 1974 coup onward, the Portuguese colonial 
army had become “an almost static army, engaging in no offensive actions of note and hoping for a cease- 
fire and a year of calm leading to an orderly referendum in each territory.” Henry Kamm, “Portugal’s 
Withdrawal From Africa Will Be Long and Tortuous,” New York Times, June 19, 1974, 14. 



190 


solidarity of the MFA’s leaders in Lisbon. Their own unity, as they saw it, was essential 
for the consolidation of power by Portugal’s anti-fascist forces and, thus, for the 
revolutionary transformation of the nation.” The consequences of anarchy in the 
colonies would undoubtedly redound to the home country, where the unstable political 
and economic situation presented opportunities for the counter-coup aspirations of 


251 This fear of the MFA was not unfounded - in fact, it was very realistic - as the nexus of events in 
Portugal and Angola the following spring proved. Following an abortive coup in March 1975, planned and 
carried out by elements loyal to former president General Spinola, a previously muted but increasing 
factionalism within the MFA became visible. As the situation in Angola deteriorated in the spring and 
summer of 1975, this factionalism intensified. The MFA, as a group, was unable to remain impartial 
toward the disputing Angolan nationalist groups, with its more radical members highly favoring the MPLA 
and the moderates favoring UNITA. As reported by the New York Times , in May 1975, Portugal, “Faced 
with alarming disintegration” of the Alvor agreement on Angola, “reluctantly ordered its troops - in the 
process of disengaging from Angola - to move back in and restore order, a decision that opened a new split 
in the Armed Forces Movement. Some Portuguese soldiers mutinied in Lisbon when ordered to Angola to 
reinforce the peacekeeping troops, an indication of the dimensions of the job faced by the authorities and 
army commanders on the scene.” “Angola’s Last Chance?” New York Times , June 14, 1975, 26. As will 
be further discussed, the Portuguese and Angola’s three liberation movement agreed to the Alvor accords in 
mid-January 1975. The agreement committed the Portuguese government to neutrality toward the three 
contending movements and established a transitional government to oversee the path to independence, 
scheduled for November 11, 1975. Henry Kamm’s carefully crafted analysis of the unstable conditions in 
the Portuguese African colonies, and how the MFA in Lisbon viewed that instability in terms of its effects 
on the Movement’s objectives for Portugal, is illuminating. He explains the MFA’s concerns over the close 
relationship between the resolution of the colonial question and the MFA’s own longevity. His analysis 
underscores the linkage between the evolving situations in Portugal and her colonies, especially Angola and 
Mozambique. In addressing the potential for racial conflict, perhaps even warfare, in those two colonies, 
for example, Hamm noted, “The Portuguese Army is the only factor separating the two opposing forces... if 
it has to fight, either to defend itself against the guerrillas or to separate black and white militants, the army 
is worried that this would make the situation dangerous not only in Africa, but also, and perhaps more so, 
in Portugal. The question that preoccupies the military is whether bloodshed in Angola or Mozambique, 
putting the soldiers who staged the coup under grave pressure, might become the starting signal for a 
countercoup by the right. They are concerned also over the possibility that resumption of war would lead 
to serious disaffection among the Portuguese left, the strongest political force in the country, which has 
supported the leaders of the coup until now.” Kamm, “Portugal’s Withdrawal from Africa Will be Long 
and Tortuous,” 14. 



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959 

reactionary segments of the society.” “ Thus, the young leaders of the MFA became 
convinced that rapid, full independence for the territories, under majority rule, was the 
best solution to the “colonial question.” Further, they saw it as absolutely vital to the 
continued unity, credibility, and viability of the Armed Forces Movement itself. 

General Spinola’s ideas about decolonization, especially his specific plan for Angola, 
substantially differed from those of the MFA and led to his forced resignation in 
September 1974. I discuss this subject in detail in chapter 4. First, however, I will 
conclude this chapter by focusing on the United States’ reaction to the April coup, the 
increasing American-Portuguese tensions in its aftermath, and Washington’s initial 
response to the decolonization issue. 


252 From very early on in post-coup Portugal, the leaders of the MFA worried about CIA-sponsored 
subversive activity against them in Portugal and interference with the decolonization process. One of these 
concerns centered on the Portuguese Liberation Army (ELP) whose critical membership consisted of 
Portuguese rightists, including members of the Secret Police (PIDE), some of who fled Portugal for Spain 
following the coup. General Vernon Walters, Deputy Director of the CIA had not only visited Lisbon in 
August 1974, but he allegedly also visited Spain in the fall of 1974, as did William Colby, the Director of 
CIA. In Portugal, rumors abounded on the reasons for the Iberian visits by the top two American 
intelligence officials. They ranged from speculation about mere “snooping around,” including the alleged 
presence off the Portuguese coast of a mysterious CIA communications ship, named “Apollo,” to American 
support for the ELP. See, for example, Miguel Acoca, “Lisbon Officer Questions Long-Term U.S. 
Intentions,” and Nicholas Ashford, “Madrid Will Be Questioned About Activities of Secret Right-Wing 
Army plotting Chaos in Portugal,” The Times (London), March 25, 1975, 7. The latter article also reported 
that the ELP was linked to mercenary groups in Africa, composed of former Portuguese soldiers and ex- 
PIDE officials, whose dual objective was the overthrow of the Portuguese government and the defeat of the 
black nationalist movements in Africa. Following the unsuccessful March 1975 Spinolista coup. 
Ambassador Carlucci was charged by one of Lisbon’s main daily newspapers with conspiring with the CIA 
to use the ELP to topple the Portuguese government. The Ministry of Interior renounced the article as 
“irresponsible speculation,” and the American Embassy responded to the article with a letter refuting its 
allegations. Christopher Reed, “Envoy in Lisbon Fights Back,” Manchester Guardian, March 29, 1975. 



192 


Washington and the Portuguese Crisis 

Despite the very visible indications in February and March 1974 that all was not well 
in Portugal, events that had all been reported in the American press, the April 25 th coup 
caught American decision makers by surprise. In testimony before the House Select 
Committee on Intelligence (the Pike Committee) in October 1975, William G. Hyland, 
head of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, admitted, “Even a 
cursory review of the intelligence record indicates that there was no specific warning of 
the coup of April 25, 1974 in Portugal. As far as the Bureau of Intelligence and Research 
was concerned, our last analytical reporting was in late March and we drew no 
conclusions that pointed to more than a continuing struggle for power but short of a 
military revolt.” 253 


253 qa Report the President Doesn’t Want You to Read,” 79. Keith Clark, the CIA’s National 
Intelligence Officer for Western Europe, and Lieutenant General Samuel V. Wilson, a deputy to the 
Director of Central Intelligence and the individual in charge of the U.S. attache system, supported Hyland’s 
assessment. Ibid. According to John M. Crewdson of the New York Times , Clark also noted that the last 
National Intelligence Estimate on Portugal was prepared in 1964, and along with General Wilson testified 
that the “system had not functioned well in the Portuguese crisis.” John M. Crewdson, “‘74’ Lisbon Coup 
Took U.S. by Surprise,” New York Times , October 8, 1975, 3. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons the 
“system” had failed in Portugal was because of the tendency for American foreign policy specialists to 
practice what Roger Morris, a member of Kissinger’s National Security Council Staff during President 
Nixon’s first term, has termed the “ever-present blight of ‘cliency.’” According to Morris, cliency dictates 
that “The State Department (and CIA) officers presumably most knowledgeable about Metropolitan 
Portugal, those in the European Bureau in Washington or in Lisbon, were naturally loath to discover any 
weakening of Portuguese resolve or stability, their inclination being to resist the downgrading of their 
clients that might follow such confessions.” Roger Morris, Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and 
American Foreign Policy (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1977), 1 12. 



193 


While Washington was caught off-guard by the Portuguese coup, this situation was 
hardly unique in the annals of so-called “intelligence failures.” During the course of its 
investigation, the Pike Committee revealed systemic problems in the intelligence 
community that prevented timely and accurate analysis of the 1968 Tet offensive in 
South Vietnam, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 
following the overthrow of Archbishop Makarios by Greek military officers. 

In the specific case of Portugal, CIA witnesses testified that over-reliance on 
information from the Portuguese secret police (the notorious PIDE, or International 
Police for the Defense of the State) meant that very little first-hand intelligence was 
generated by the small, and apparently mostly lethargic, CIA station in Lisbon. The 
paucity of primary intelligence sources also applied to the Defense Attache system in 
Portugal. Since Portugal was a NATO member, American intelligence collectors 


254 “The CIA Report the President Doesn’t Want You to Read,” 79. These CIA admissions are interesting, 
not only for what they reveal about American intelligence weaknesses, but also because the sources of 
information on Portugal’s relationships with its African colonies were largely restricted to Lisbon- 
controlled resources, such as the PIDE. In Angola, for example, the CIA did not have a case officer in 
Luanda, where the U.S. maintained a consulate, from 1969 until March 1975. The large CIA station in 
Kinshasa, Zaire, oversaw intelligence gathering on Angola until then (and, actually, even after March 
1975), which in any case was also limited because the Kinshasa station relied on Holden Roberto, the 
leader of the FNLA, for information on the internal Angolan situation. Roberto, however, remained firmly 
ensconced in Kinshasa until July 1975, where he and his movement enjoyed the beneficence of Zaire’s 
President Mobutu. So, not only did the CIA have very poor intelligence on the domestic Portuguese 
situation, but also its knowledge of Portuguese-African relations was restricted, and slanted, by its lack of 
primary, on-the-ground assets in Angola and its reliance on Holden Roberto and his patron, Mobutu. The 
tendency towards “cliency,” obvious in incorrect intelligence assessments of the Portuguese situation, also 
impaired American knowledge and understanding of Angolan internal dynamics that would later affect 
American decision-making on Angola. The exception to the weakness in intelligence on Angola was the 



194 


apparently deemed it too chancy, or perhaps too sensitive, to “spy” on an ally. Journalist 
John A. Crewdson reported, for example, that the CIA’s Keith Clark admitted, “‘Hard 
information’ on the domestic and military situation, ‘would have been difficult to come 
by without vastly more expense and risk than anyone would have cared to undertake.’” 
Mr. Clark also testified that the primary American intelligence interest in Portugal before 
the coup lay in Portugal’s relationships with its African colonies and not with the 
Metropole .” 255 

Not only did Prime Minister Caetano’s ouster come as a surprise to American decision 
makers, but it also caused considerable consternation since very little was known about 
the political leanings, motivations and agenda of the MFA leadership which numbered 
about two hundred at the time of the coup. Even General Spinola, despite his popularity 
in Portugal and the uproar caused by the publication of his book, was a largely unknown 
entity to American decision makers in Washington. However, the American ambassador 
in Lisbon at that time, Stuart Nash Scott, knew of the general and accurately described 
him as pro-Western and moderate . 256 


reporting by Tom Killoran, the American Consul General in Luanda from mid-1974 until November 1975. 
However, Washington largely ignored his reports, which spoke most favorably of the MPLA. 

255 Crewdson, “‘74’ Lisbon Coup Took U.S. by Surprise,” 3. 

~ 56 Szulc, “Lisbon and Washington,” 19. The Pike Committee Report is instructive, again, on 
Washington’s lack of first-hand information on the coup’s leadership and on the impact of Spinola’s book. 
The Committee noted, “When a group of left-leaning Portuguese junior military officers ousted the Caetano 
regime on April 25, 1974, State Department officials represented to the New York Times that Washington 
knew those who were behind the coup well. State indicated that we were not surprised by the coup, and 



195 


The inclusion of Communists in the first government (and the subsequent provisional 
governments), as well as what he perceived as the Socialist Party’s indulgence of the 
PCP, led Kissinger to a pessimistic assessment of the Portuguese situation. His 


that no significant changes in Portugal’s NATO membership were expected. Nothing could have been 
further from the truth.” “The CIA Report the President Doesn’t Want You to Read,” 79. Correspondent 
John Crewdson, writing on the leaked testimonies of several of Washington’s key Western European 
bureaucrats, including William Hyland, Keith Clark, and Lieutenant General Samuel V. Wilson, noted that 
“all conceded under questioning that they had not read the Spinola book at the time of its publication or 
since, and had received only summaries or briefings on its contents before the coup.” Crewdson, “‘74’ 
Lisbon Coup Took U.S. by Surprise,” 3. As the situation in Portugal became more chaotic and mercurial, 
Kissinger’s original concern over the direction of the revolutionary situation grew into something 
approaching paranoia. In late October 1974, he fired Ambassador Scott, for reasons known only to the 
Secretary of State, and replaced him with Frank C. Carlucci. The Washington Post speculated that Scott 
was fired because Kissinger “doubted the accuracy of his reports minimizing the likelihood of a 
Communist takeover in Portugal.” “U.S. Seen Firing Lisbon Envoy,” Washington Post, November 6, 1974. 
Tad Szulc supports the Post’s hypothesis. He observed that neither Ambassador Scott nor Western 
European analysts in the State Department shared Kissinger’s doom and gloom assessment of the 
Portuguese situation, and that “Carlucci was apparently picked for his reputation for toughness and the 
expectation that he would follow the secretary’s ‘hard line.’” Szulc, “Lisbon and Washington,” 29, 31. 

257 Kissinger, who later became a supporter of Mario Soares and his Socialists, compared the party’s 
accommodation of the Communists in the provisional governments to that of the Kerensky-led provisional 
government after the overthrow of Nicholas II in March 1917. The end-result of that, of course, was the 
subsequent Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917. Referring to the July 1974 to August 1975 
premiership of Colonel Vasco dos Santos Goncalves (a leftist, to be sure, but not a member of the PCP), 
Kissinger wrote that when Goncalves met President Ford at the May 1975 NATO summit, “he told Ford 
that the democratic non-Communist parties were not really democratic because, by definition, each of them 
represented the viewpoint of only a segment of the electorate. Goncalves claimed that he represented a 
more inclusive view of politics above party - a concept straight out of Lenin. . .It was this Leninist tendency 
that had led me to make the not-so-tactful comment to Mario Soares, the head of the Socialist Party, that 
the democratic leaders risked ending up like Aleksandr Kerensky - the last democratic Russian leader 
before Lenin’s coup.” Henry Kissinger, Years of Renewal (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), 630. 

Tad Szulc’ s recounting of the Kissinger-Soares exchange, which occurred in October 1974 in Washington, 
D.C., reveals that Kissinger was not only “not-so-tactful,” but also that he was abrasively disdainful. Szulc 
reported that Kissinger used the occasion of a luncheon “to deliver a lecture on Communism to his 
Portuguese guests. ‘I want to be frank with you,’ he said. ‘I could talk about the weather and so on, but I 
must be frank. . .You are allowing excessive Communist Party influence in the government.’ Turning to 
Soares, the Socialist, Kissinger said, ‘You are a Kerensky... I believe your sincerity, but you are naive.’ 
Soares shot back, according to one observer, ‘I certainly don’t want to be a Kerensky.’ Kissinger said, 
‘Neither did Kerensky.’” Szulc, “Lisbon and Washington,” 3. 



196 


worries were apparently not alleviated by the reports he was receiving from Ambassador 
Scott in Lisbon, which urged a “wait and see attitude” on the part of the American 
government. 

The collapse of the first provisional government in early July 1974, brought about by 
the resignation of Prime Minister Palma Carlos and three members of the centrist Popular 
Democratic Party, as well as the MFA’s rejection of Lieutenant Colonel Mario Firmino 
Miguel, the Minister of Defense and a close associate of Spinola, as Palma Carlos’s 
successor raised yet another red flag in Washington. Moreover, the MFA’s appointment 
of Colonel Vasco dos Santo Goncalves as prime minister, a major figure in the Armed 
Forces Movement, could not have pleased Secretary Kissinger. He believed that if 

nco 

Goncalves weren’t actually a member of the PCP, he was at least a fellow traveler/ 

Washington’s Back-Channel Intelligence 

During the early months of the Portuguese revolution, Kissinger was highly skeptical 
about the reports he was receiving from Ambassador Scott and apparently received 


258 Kissinger described Goncalves, as well as other MFA leaders, thusly. “The state of mind of many of the 
new leaders was exemplified by Colonel Vasco dos Santos Goncalves, who served as Prime Minister from 
mid-1974 to August 1975, and who, if not an outright Communist, only refrained from membership in 
order to save paying his party dues.” Henry Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 630. Journalist Henry Giniger, 
writing for the New York Times, noted that the new prime minister, interestingly, conferred with Alvaro 
Cunhal of the PCP before meeting with President Spinola. Following the meeting, Cunhal assured his 
followers that PCP participation in the new provisional government would continue, including his own role 
as Minister without Portfolio. Giniger’ s reporting on Goncalves’ credentials noted that Goncalves was a 
member of both the MFA’s Coordinating Committee and its Council of State, “the highest body on 
constitutional matters,” and that Goncalves “has been influential in its political thinking.” Henry Giniger, 
“Portugal’s New Premier Works to Form Cabinet to End Crisis.” New York Times, July 15, 1974, 3. 



197 


conflicting and more pessimistic information from a variety of sources/ One of the 
more important intelligence sources, part of Kissinger’s “back channel” communications, 
was retired Admiral George W. Anderson, the Chief of Naval Operations during the 1962 
Cuban Missile Crisis and former ambassador to Lisbon during the late Salazar years. 
Kenneth Maxwell has alleged that Admiral Anderson, who lived in the south of Portugal 


259 Kissinger’s pessimistic nature occasionally led him to dire predictions about the direction of Portuguese 
politics. In the late summer of 1974, for example, he was convinced Portugal would be taken over by the 
Communists, even while Ambassador Scott, from Lisbon, was advising him that a Communist takeover 
was not inevitable at that time, especially if the United States provided economic aid to Portugal to 
strengthen the Socialist’s hand in the emerging political struggle with the Communists. Szulc, “Lisbon and 
Washington,” 26-27. General Francisco Costa Gomes, who became Portugal’s president after Spinola’s 
resignation in late September 1974, attempted on several occasions, including his visit to Washington, D.C. 
in October 1974, to allay Kissinger’s concerns. His efforts, however, seemed to fall on deaf ears. In early 
November 1974, Ambassador Scott delivered a message to President Costa Gomes from Kissinger stating 
that Portugal was being removed from NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) and would henceforth be 
denied access to NATO Atomal and Cosmic information. Scott then transmitted Costa Gomes’ response to 
Kissinger on 2 November. Costa Gomes, who had served as a Portuguese representative to NATO’s 
Supreme Allied Command, Atlantic (SACLANT), in Norfolk, VA, during the 1960s, first acknowledged 
the Secretary of State’s concern about the security of NATO classified information in Portugal. He 
admitted that he could not state definitely that there was no possibility of a leak of such material (a truthful 
confession which probably applied to all NATO nations, including the United States). In an apparent 
attempt to alleviate the Secretary’s anxiety, however, he added that Alvaro Cunhal, whose antipathy for 
NATO membership was well known, had admitted that Portugal basically had no other option than to 
remain a NATO member. As Ambassador Scott then reported, “Costa Gomes repeated several times his 
feeling that Secretary Kissinger’s preoccupations about the political situation in Portugal were grossly 
exaggerated. As for the presence of a Communist in the GOP, Alvaro Cunhal was a Minister without 
Portfolio and therefore without direct access to any GOP secret files.” Lisbon Telegram 04725, “Subject: 
Portugal and the NPG,” November 2, 1974, p. 2, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for 
Europe and Canada, Portugal - State Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS Cl). Box 11, Gerald R. 
Ford Library. Senator Mansfield’s report to President Ford on his official trip to Portugal in August 1975, 
from which the beginning quote in this chapter is taken, was also an attempt to quell what he believed was 
a continuing and misplaced alarmist approach to the situation in Portugal and to caution against rash 
judgments based on ideological predilections. As he told Ford, “There are many facets to the situation and 
if we seek to reduce them only to two - Communist and anti-Communist - we are going to see not with 
clarity but with detriment to our own interests.” Senator Mike Mansfield Letter to President Ford, 

“Subject: Observations on the Portuguese Situation - Estimate of the Military-Political Situation,” August 
22, 1975, p. 1, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Portugal (5), 
Box 10, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



198 


following his retirement, was Kissinger’s “key private adviser on Portugal during the 
early months” (of the revolution.). According to Maxwell, the Admiral has an informal 
relationship with members of an ultra-right group loyal to the deposed Portuguese 
president, Admiral Americo Tomas - a group that had also urged the firing of the 
moderate General Spinola, then Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, after the 
publication of his book, Portugal and the Future, in February 1974. 260 

General Walters, then Deputy Director of the CIA, also served as an important back- 
channel source of information. Kissinger sent him to Portugal on a fact-finding mission 
in August 1974, shortly after the formation of the Goncalves’ second provisional 
government. His visit provided an additional pessimistic account of the Portuguese 
situation. 261 According to Tad Szulc, “Walters and the CIA judged that Portugal was as 


260 Maxwell notes that this group, which he refers to as “integrationists,” was opposed not only to the MFA 
and General Spinola’ s ideas about decolonization, which were, in reality, very different, but also to “the 
very idea of decolonization itself.” Kenneth Maxwell, “Portugal under Pressure,” The New York Review of 
Books XXII, no. 9 (May 29, 1975): 23. 

261 Kenneth Maxwell alleges that General Walters met with some of the ultra-right “integrationists,” a 
group which included several close friends of Admiral Anderson. The integrationists were former Salazar 
and Caetano civilian and military governmental officials who assumed top positions in Portuguese industry 
following their service. They feared the radical revolutionary threat to Portugal’s future and to their own 
political and economic situations. Ibid. General Walters, in a letter to the editor of The New York Review 
of Books, denied having seen any members of the group, while admitting that he had visited Portugal in 
August 1974. Vernon A. Walters, “Letter to the Editor,” The New York Review of Books XXII, no. 13 
(August 7, 1975). Interestingly, this was the first confirmation that General Walters had even visited 
Portugal at all in 1974. See Kenneth Maxwell, “Kenneth Maxwell Replies,” The New York Review of 
Books XXII, no. 13 (August 7, 1975). Miguel Acoca, a journalist for the Washington Post, also reported on 
Walters’ August visit to Portugal (and Spain). Alluding to Kissinger’s apparent skepticism of U.S. 
embassy Lisbon reports, Acoca reported, “Informed sources said that Kissinger dispatched Lt. Gen. Vernon 
Walters. . . to Lisbon in August for a ‘personal appraisal.’ The CIA would not comment on the persistent 



199 


good as lost to the Communists, in part because of the rising radicalization of the 
MFA.” 262 

It was these gloomy assessments from trusted confidantes that, at least early on, 
appeared to have had the most influence on Kissinger’s stance toward Portugal. They 
contrasted with the more even-handed reports emanating from Ambassador Scott who, 
until Kissinger fired him in October 1974, urged at least moderate American economic 
support to Portugal to enhance the status of the Socialist Party and its leader, Mario 
Soares, who had been requesting such support. 263 


reports of Walters’ visit, refusing even to confirm that it took place. A CIA spokesman said that the agency 
never comments on the travels of its top personnel.” Miguel Acoca, “U.S. Said to Fear Lisbon Shift to 
Left,” Washington Post, October 27, 1974. 

262 Szulc, “Lisbon and Washington,” 34. Szulc also supports Maxwell’s contention that Admiral Anderson 
provided Kissinger with intelligence reports on the Portuguese situation, and that these reports were of a 
pessimistic nature, perhaps as a result of his apparent friendship with at least some of the now threatened 
ultra-right integrationists. 

263 In early November 1974, just as Ambassador Scott was preparing to depart his Lisbon post, and before 
Ambassador Carlucci’s arrival in Portugal, Kissinger dispatched a four-person State Department fact- 
finding team to Portugal to assess the situation - a promise he had made to President Costa Gomes and 
Foreign Minister Mario Soares during their visit to Washington in October 1974. According to Tad Szulc, 
the group, headed by Alan Lukens, director of the State Department’s Iberian division, “Concluded that the 
United States ‘can trust Soares’ and that he should be bolstered by some measure of economic aid rather 
than be isolated with his Socialists from the world’s democratic community.” Ibid., 32. In early December 
1974, Kissinger, while still largely pessimistic about Portugal’s future, but apparently persuaded by senior 
State Department officials who supported the Lukens’ recommendations, approved the department’s 
recommended, modest economic package for Portugal. He may have also felt pressure from Congress to 
do something positive. In early December 1974, the Senate had passed an amendment to the foreign aid 
bill providing $50 million in various types of credits and grant aid assistance for Portugal. The Ford 
Administration supported this amendment, and an aid package of approximately $70 million dollars was 
offered to the Portuguese government. The specifics for the aid package are detailed in Memorandum for 
the President, “Subject: Assistance to Portugal,” December 23, 1974, pp. 1-2 and Tab A, National Security 
Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Portugal (3), Box 10, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



200 


Kissinger’s informal intelligence network probably provided him with much of the 
information contained in a background paper he prepared for President Ford before the 
visit of President Costa Gomes to Washington in October 1974. He cautioned the 
president, “Our attitude toward Costa Gomes cannot be entirely negative... because in the 
current Portuguese political context he does represent a voice of moderation.” 264 
However, the Secretary of State also wrote that “clandestine sources” were reporting that 
with each crisis in Portugal, the position of the younger members of the MFA, “described 
to us as ‘self-taught Marxists,”’ seems to have been strengthened and that this “core 
group of MFA officers favors withdrawal from NATO and a foreign policy of non- 
alignment.” 265 Based upon this assessment from unidentified, sub-rosa sources, 

Kissinger recommended that President Ford not promise economic aid to the Portuguese 
government, a major reason for Costa Gomes’ Washington trip, “unless Portuguese 
policy over the period immediately ahead clearly demonstrates that democracy in 
Portugal and a pro-Western orientation are not in jeopardy.” 266 


264 Memorandum for President Ford from Henry A. Kissinger, “Meeting with Francisco da Costa Gomes, 
President of Portugal,” (Washington, D.C., 18 October 1974), p.3 {Database on-line}; available from 
Declassified Documents Reference System. 

265 Ibid., 1. 

266 Ibid., 4. Kissinger’s reference to Portuguese democracy is interesting in light of the fact that during the 
Salazar-Caetano years of fascist dictatorship, democracy was not a major issue in the American-Portuguese 
relationship - only the continued Western-NATO orientation of the country and American access to the 
Azores military facilities. Now, with the left-leaning bias of some members of the MFA and the strength of 
the Portuguese Communist Party, Kissinger suddenly became concerned about Portuguese democracy. 



201 


Portugal and NATO 

Kissinger’s usually gloomy assessment of the Portuguese situation during the early 
months of the revolution stemmed, at least in part, from his concerns over the challenge 
of Eurocommunism to American influence in Western Europe and to the NATO alliance 
itself, as discussed in Chapter 2. President Ford was similarly worried. 267 The specter of 
Eurocommunism’s appeal throughout most of Western Europe, then, informed the 
manner in which Washington viewed the establishment of Portugal’s first and second 
provisional government with the PCP occupying various cabinet positions. 

Ford and Kissinger’s worries about the possible adverse effects on NATO’s future 
from Eurocommunist party participation in national politics may have been somewhat 


267 The presence of Communists in Portugal’s government was a major presidential discussion point during 
Ford’s visit to Helsinki in July 1975 for the signing of the Helsinki agreements. According to Kissinger, 
President Ford used the pretext of Communist participation in Portuguese politics to strongly warn the 
Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, about the Communist dangers in his own country. There, the 
Communist Party enjoyed widespread popularity and increasing representational strength in both regional 
and national politics, and even some staunch anti-Communists leaders were advocating an “opening to the 
left.” Ford told the prime minister, “We do not see how it is possible to tolerate a Marxist government in 
NATO... With the liberal, leftist leanings of these people, you are sure to end up with a Communist 
government, and such a situation would be completely unacceptable to us if they were in NATO. 

Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 629. The Pike Committee’s investigation of American clandestine support for 
Western European parties, organizations, and individuals opposed to the Eurocommunist Parties is very 
illuminating on the subject of the American government’s historic fears of, and intense distaste for. 
Communist participation in the political life of Western Europe. The Committee reported, for example, 
that from 1948 to 1968, the United States’ support to non-Communist parties and individuals, usually 
funneled through the CIA, amounted to $65,150,000 - no small sum. “The CIA Report the President 
Doesn’t Want You to Read,” 86. In the leaked report, the names of the recipients of this American 
politically targeted largesse were deleted. However, a careful reading of the report, especially the 
footnotes, suggests they were anti-Communist entities in Italy. American political support was again 
evident in Italy’s 1972 parliamentary elections when the American ambassador in Rome channeled an 
additional $10,000,000 to non-Communist candidates, parties and affiliated organizations. Ibid., 84. 



202 


exaggerated, probably for effect. However, as Kissinger frequently observed, none of 
these parties supported the Atlantic Alliance. Moreover, in Portugal, the Communist 
Party under Alvaro Cunhal was decidedly pro-Moscow, and had supported the Soviet 
invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Cunhal stoked the flames of the Ford 
Administration’s anti-Eurocommunism stance soon after his return from fourteen years of 
exile in Eastern Europe. When asked about the nation’s NATO membership, Cunhal 
stated that he favored Portugal’s non-participation in military blocs. As reported by 
Miguel Acoca in a special report to the Washington Post, Cunhal added in his response to 
the same question, ‘“Our hope is that the international thaw and that the progress of 
peaceful coexistence will put an end’ to such alliances.’” 

Washington’s worries may have been purposely inflated, but they were grounded in 
solid strategic concerns - specifically, the Iberian Peninsula’ s important role in the 
Atlantic Alliance. Portugal, along with Spain, not a NATO member at the time, but 
which allowed American leases of naval and air facilities in the country, anchored the 
alliance’s southwestern flank and protected the strategic Gibraltar Strait. Moreover, 
Portugal’s control of the Azores, whose value had been amply demonstrated during the 
American re-supply of Israel during the 1973 Middle East War, was a special concern. 
The American lease of Azorean military bases had expired in February 1974, and the 

268 Miguel Acoca, “Portuguese Popular Front: Communists Tell Electoral Strategy,” Washington Post, 

May 12, 1974, 13. 



203 


continued use of the facilities was on an ad hoc, day-by-day basis. Additionally, 
American leases of non-NATO Spain’s military facilities were set to expire in 1975, and 
General Francisco Franco, the long-lived Fascist leader of the country, was in failing 
health (he died in November 1975). 

There is evidence to suggest that Kissinger’s pessimism over the future status of the 
Iberian nations as it related to NATO and American leadership of the Atlantic Alliance 
were connected to, yet again, the well-worn Domino Theory. As previously noted in the 
discussion of Allende’s Chile, Secretary of State Kissinger sometimes appeared to be 
obsessively troubled with the issue. At the time of the November 1974 firing of 
Ambassador Scott in Lisbon, for example, the Washington Post, citing informed sources, 
remarked, “Kissinger is said to be concerned about a possible ‘Southern Europe domino 
theory’ involving besides Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece, and to fear that the 
emergence of the Portuguese Communist Party will be duplicated in neighboring Spain, 
Western Europe’s last remaining rightist pro-American regime, when Generalissimo 
Francisco Franco, aging and in ill health, dies.” 269 Journalist Miguel Acoca, in a special 
report to the Washington Post, also reported that informed sources told him “that 
Kissinger and others in Washington were obsessed with the fear that Portugal will be the 
first country to go Communist in what was called ‘a southern Europe domino theory’ also 


269 


U.S. Seen Firing Lisbon Envoy,” Washington Post , November 6, 1974. 



204 


involving Spain, Italy and Greece. This fear apparently has been fed by pessimistic 
intelligence assessments, press reports stressing the power of the left in Portugal, and the 
anxieties of multinational companies with interests in Portugal and its African 
colonies.” 270 

Ingmar Oldberg, a historian at the University of Lund and the Swedish National 
Defence Research Institute in Stockholm, supports the Post’s conjecture that Kissinger 
was concerned about a fractionalization of the Atlantic Alliance. “Kissinger made 
Portugal a new testing-ground for the ‘domino theory,’ according to which the loss of one 
country might lead to the loss of others. As early as October 1974 he was reported as 
fearing that the Communists would gain full control in Portugal and precipitate similar 
take-overs in Spain, Italy and Greece.” Kenneth Maxwell supports this assessment. 

“As soon as it became known that communists would participate in the government in 
Lisbon Kissinger’s action were panicky, reflexive, automatic. Almost immediately 
NATO ‘secrets’ were no longer passed to the Portuguese. Stories were leaked about a 
“Mediterranean domino theory’... The ‘domino’ argument was almost entirely 


270 Miguel Acoca, “U.S. Said to Fear Lisbon Shift to Left,” Washington Post , October 27, 1974. 

~ 71 Ingmar Oldberg, “The Portuguese Revolution of 1974-1975 and U.S. Foreign Policy,” Cooperation and 
Conflict XVII (1982): 184. Oldberg bases this assessment of Kissinger’s fear of falling dominoes on 
information derived from Facts on File , 1974, p. 930. 



205 


ideological, concerned with the potential participation of communists in the governments 

272 

of Spain, Italy, France, and Greece.”" 

Whether Kissinger sincerely believed in a European domino theory is not important. 
What is significant is the use of “falling dominoes” symbolism in an attempt to 
strengthen his arguments against Eurocommunism. Both he and President Ford used the 
Portuguese situation to punctuate their lecturing to Western European leaders with 
admonishments about the dangers of Communist participation in European politics, not 
the least of which might be the collapse of NATO, the withdrawal of American forces, 
and the ebbing of the American commitment to the defense of Western Europe. As noted 
by Oldberg, “This domino theory should not be seen so much as a conviction and a 
prophecy but more as a conscious device to scare people into taking actions against the 
danger in Portugal and other countries.”" 

Portuguese Decolonization and Option Two 

Clearly, Kissinger was concerned and just as often perplexed and frustrated by the 
leftward tilt of Portuguese politics. However, besides Portugal during 1974, Kissinger 
had a full plate of other worries, not the least of which were the unfolding events of the 
Watergate scandal and President Nixon’s increasingly weakened political position with 

272 Kenneth Maxwell, “Portugal Under Pressure,” New York Review of Books XXII, no. 9 (May 29, 1975): 
21 - 22 . 

~ 73 Oldberg, “The Portuguese Revolution of 1974-1975,” 184. 



206 


the public, the congress, and his own Republican Party. Then, too, the Middle East 
continued to simmer following the October 1973 War, even though President Nixon had 
undertaken a June 1974 visit to the region in an attempt to use his international stature 
and leadership (now weakened, no doubt, by the ongoing Watergate investigations) to 
reach a solution acceptable to all parties. 

These concerns, among others, may explain why he, certainly not alone, failed to grasp 
the radically changed environment in sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the Portuguese 
coup and the MFA’s decision to decolonize. Most particularly, Kissinger should have 
been troubled about the shattered assumptions of National Security Study Memorandum 
39 (NSSM 39), especially the principle assumption that “the whites are here to stay.” At 
least some of the whites - the Portuguese - were about to terminate their “civilizing 

974 

mission” and retreat to Europe.”" 

However, the Secretary of State apparently saw no disconnect between American 
policy in southern Africa in the post-coup situation and the pre-coup assumptions of 
Option Two. African bureau chief, Donald Easum, clearly recognized that events in the 
region demanded new thinking and he earned Kissinger’s contempt, and eventual 
dismissal, for that insight. But the rest of the State Department’s AF, perhaps intimated 

~ 7 1 As Graham Hovey of the New York Times observed, “Mr. Kissinger’s Option Two premise was 
exploded in the overthrow of Portugal’s fascist regime in April of 1974 by an army weary of unwinnable 
colonial wars and determined to negotiate promptly with the liberation movements for the independence of 
the African territories.” Graham Hovey, “Bankruptcy on Africa.” New York Times, March 2, 1976, 29. 



207 


by Kissinger’s propensity to bully and browbeat his subordinates, did virtually nothing to 
at least try to enlighten their leader." 

For example, a series of four briefing papers prepared by the State Department for 
President Ford between September 1974 and May 1975 continued to construe American 
foreign policy in the region exactly along the lines of Option Two. 276 The September 4 th 
issue paper, most of which was faithfully replicated in the three following papers, 
exhibited no change in the department’s thinking toward southern Africa. Each paper 


~ 75 Historian Daniel Spikes addresses Easum’s unenviable position with Kissinger. He realized “that 
events taking shape in southern Africa screamed for dynamism and innovation. But whenever Easum 
pressed African issues in Washington policy forums, ‘where occasional General Idi Amin jokes were much 
in style,’ it only earned him his boss’s legendary scorn. What should have been an occasion for the obscure 
State Department Africa Bureau to play an important role on the international stage became instead, 
because of Kissinger’s indifference toward Africa, a time of frustration and disappointment.” Daniel 
Spikes, Angola and the Politics of Intervention: From Local Bush War to Chronic Crisis in Southern 
Africa (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1993), 117. 

276 The four are: Memorandum for Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, The White House, “Subject: 

Issues Paper on Southern Africa,” September 4, 1974, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country 
Files for Africa, 1974-1977, Africa - General (1), Box 1, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary; Memorandum for 
Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, The White House, “Subject: Issues Paper on Southern Africa,” 
October 15, 1974, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, 1974-1977, Africa - 
General (1), Box 1, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary; Memorandum for Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, The 
White House, “Subject: Issues Paper on Southern Africa,” December 13, 1974, National Security Adviser 
- Presidential Country Files for Africa, 1974-1977, Africa - General (2), Box 1, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary; 
Memorandum for Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, The White House, “Subject: Issues Paper on 
Southern Africa,” May 15, 1975, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, 1974- 
1975, Africa - General (2), Box 1, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary. Each contained a brief cover sheet from the 
Department of State’s Executive Secretary explaining that they were for the Secretary of State’s morning 
discussion with President Ford. All four papers, using identical language, did recognize that the Portuguese 
coup, as they put it, “opened the door to far-reaching changes affecting the entire southern African region,” 
emphasizing that independence for Angola and Mozambique “will create the first potential breach in the 
cordon of friendly buffers between South Africa and black Africa.” Memorandum for Lieutenant General 
Brent Scowcroft, The White House, “Subject: Issues Paper on Southern Africa,” October 15, 1974, p.l. 
Still, the appropriateness of the American policy in the region, as promulgated by Option Two, went 
unquestioned. 



208 


asked the question, “Do recent developments suggest the need for major modifications or 
adjustments of our policies vis a vis southern Africa?” While admitting that the changing 
regional situation gave rise to “further questions,” most dealing with American policy 
toward South Africa and Rhodesia, the response to this question in all four papers was, 

“In a recent re-examination of our policies, we concluded that the delicate balancing act 
we have performed has served us well in protecting our conflicting interests in black and 
white Africa. ”“ Further, each paper noted, “Satisfying our competing economic, 
political and strategic interests without acquiescing in the racist policies of the region has 
necessarily entailed an uneasy and imperfect balancing act... However, our differentiated 
strategy has enabled us to maintain reasonably good relations with black and white 
Africa .” 278 

As for the Portuguese African colonies, the papers discussed decolonization 
developments as the independence talks for Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique progressed. 
However, all observed “. . . we have consistently supported the right of their people to 
self-determination. For over a decade of fighting between Portugal and African 
nationalist groups, our embargo on arms to either side for use in that conflict reflected our 
hope for a non-violent solution. We opposed resolutions in the UN which we considered 


Memorandum for Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, The White House, “Subject: Issues Paper on 


Southern Africa,” September 4, 1974, pp. 4-5. 
278 Ibid., p. 3. 



209 


extreme and not conducive to peaceful resolution.” The suggestion of some sort of 
even-handed policy towards Portugal and its African colonies was broadly false, not only 
from an historical perspective, as I discussed in Chapter 1, but also as a description of the 
Option Two Policy as practiced. 

In summary, a number of factors came together during 1974 that had a major bearing 
on the way the White House, especially Mr. Kissinger, perceived the unfolding events in 
the Portuguese territories in Africa. These included, among other things: the Secretary 
of State’s personal disregard for and ignorance of the black nationalist liberation 
struggles in Portuguese Africa; his lack of respect for the advice of his supposed 
principal advisors on African issues; the absence of sound intelligence and the biased 
back-channel information on Portugal’s unsettled political environment and its effects 
upon the decolonization process; the almost total absence of first-hand, unbiased 
information on the various liberation groups because of a policy which encouraged 


279 Ibid., p. 2. The December 13 th issue paper, for example, noted that Washington had “congratulated the 
new transitional government of Mozambique following its installation last September 20.” Interestingly, 
the same paper, noting that contacts with the liberation movements had recently been upgraded to the 
“Chief of Mission” level, reported that Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Donald Easum had met with 
liberation movement leaders during his recent visit to southern Africa. Ibid., p. 3. It was after this visit, 
and Easum’s groundbreaking talks with FRELIMO’s Samora Machel in Mozambique, that Kissinger 
“relieved” Easum of his duties. 

2sn As late as April 1975, after the Forty Committee had already allocated $300,000 to the FNLA upon the 
advice of the CIA, Kissinger told President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia during the latter’s visit to 
Washington that the United States knew “relatively little about such areas as Angola, where there are three 
different liberation movements, and this made it difficult to estimate which potential leader would be best 
for a stable rule.” State Department Telegram, “Subject: Kaunda’s Meeting with Secretary, April 19, 
1975,” p. 2, National Security Adviser: Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zambia - State Department 
Telegrams from SecState -EXDIS, Box 8, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary. 



210 


dialogue with the white regimes only; Kissinger’s ostensible, but fallacious, belief that 
the “communications” policy was actually having a positive influence in southern Africa 
and that it needed no modification.” All of these left the United States, in the persona of 
Henry Kissinger who sat at the top of the National Security Council, the State 
Department, and the CIA through the Forty Committee, ill-prepared to understand the 
complexities of the decolonization efforts in the Portuguese territories, especially in 
Angola where three mutually hostile liberation movements actively sought outside 
support. 

Conclusion 

1974 was a singularly important year during the Nixon presidency. It represented the 
beginning of the end of the Nixon-Kissinger effort to restore American leadership and 
credibility through the construction of a new foreign policy paradigm centered on 
triangular diplomacy with the Soviet Union and China. As discussed in Chapter 2, the 
momentum for the policy significantly slowed during the year, partly as a result of the 
changing domestic political environment, and as a consequence of the disastrous 
American involvement in Vietnam. Although the new president shared Kissinger’s geo- 


~ S1 According to special correspondents of the journal, Africa , Kissinger reportedly told African delegates at 
the UN in the fall of 1974 “that independence came to Guinea Bissau ‘non-violently’ - as the U.S. has 
always said it should,’’ apparently ignoring the very successful, but violent, insurgency waged by the 
PAIGC since 1963. “Kissinger’s Secret Paper,” Africa, no. 40 (December 1974): 24. The same article 
reported that the United States also viewed “the recent talk of detente in southern Africa between South 
Africa and Zambia,” as an Option Two success story. Ibid. 



211 


strategic perspective and desired to press on with his predecessor’s global policy, the 
Executive’s dominion over foreign policy had been substantially weakened. 

Besides these momentous international and domestic events, however, the Nixon- 
Kissinger five-year endeavor to shape a world more amenable to American interests was 
unexpectedly interrupted by a leftist coup and revolutionary situation in a heretofore 
right-wing, pro-American NATO country. In large part, debilitating counter-insurgency 
wars in far-off African territories (not unlike the United States’ own Vietnam quagmire) 
precipitated Portugal’s own year of crisis. 

The inclusion of Communists in a succession of provisional governments, coming as it 
did in the wake of France’s break with NATO and Paris’s independent policies, West 
Germany’s Ostpolitik, and the growing strength of the Italian Communist Party, elevated 
Washington’s concerns about the effects of Eurocommunism on the Western Alliance. 
From a strategic standpoint, these concerns over the direction of Portugal’s unstable 
political course were not unfounded. The country, along with Spain, protected the 
western access to the Mediterranean via the Strait of Gibraltar, and Lisbon controlled 
American (and NATO) access to military facilities in the Azores. Moreover, the 
American lease on the airbase at Lajes, which had proved critical to the resupply of Israel 
the previous fall, expired in February 1974 without a new agreement in place. 



212 


Kissinger, then, had a full plate of both global and domestic worries as the presidency 
of Richard Nixon neared its end. In this scenario, the future of Portugal’s African 
colonies, including Angola - the jewel in the crown - was insignificant. It is little 
wonder, then, that Option Two, the policy of indifference, continued to inform the White 
House’s posture toward sub-Saharan Africa, despite its rapidly changing situation. These 
more important and understandable concerns, however, cannot excuse the Secretary of 
State’s disregard for the advice of his well-informed principal adviser on Africa during 
1974, Donald Easum, who urged a substantial change of course in the region as Portugal 
began its decolonization process. But, as discussed in Chapter 2, Kissinger never 
engaged Easum in any meaningful dialogue about Africa south of the Sahara. 

At any rate, as the Angolan storm began to build in late 1974, escalating into armed 
conflict in early 1975, advise from a demeaned and demoralized Bureau of African 
Affairs, now under the leadership of the much maligned Nathaniel Davis, became more 
and more irrelevant to Kissinger’s geostrategic perspective. Within that framework, 
Angola and what happened there carried little weight of its own. It place in history was 
only important as it affected the international balance of power between the United States 
and the Soviet Union, as viewed from the White House. Thus, when Nathaniel Davis 
recommended to Kissinger that the United States actively encourage a political solution 
for Angola, and in no case become covertly involved, his advice fell on mostly deaf ears. 



213 


As Seymour Hersh tells us, after Kissinger overruled Davis, “A number of State 
Department officials and other sources expressed anger at Mr. Kissinger’s decision to 
recommend direct United States involvement in Angola. ‘He was given the best advice 

there was and it didn’t fit what he wanted to do,’ one official said. ‘He wanted to face off 

282 

with the Russians right there - in Angola.’” 

Before discussing the American involvement in Angola, which is the subject of 
Chapters 5 through 7, however, it is important to understand why Angola, unlike 
Portugal’s two other major African colonies, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, was 
unique in the Lusitanian empire. The reasons for Angola’s exceptionalism made its path 
to independence not only a central issue in Lisbon’s internal political struggles, but also 
especially vulnerable to external interference. 


282 Seymour M. Hersh, “Angola-Aid Issue Opening Rifts in State Department,” New York Times, December 
14 , 1975 , 2 . 



214 


CHAPTER 4 

THE COLONIAL QUESTION: SPINOLA VERSUS THE MFA 


“We carried out the revolution in Portugal because we wanted to get 
out of Africa, but Spinola 's program could take generations, and neither 
we nor the Africans want to wait. ” 

MFA Officer 283 

“ The decolonization of Angola has been set in motion; but it will be 
an intricate process laden with many problems.” 

African Journalist Godwin Matatu 

This chapter first discusses Spinola’ s persistent, if unsuccessful efforts, to play the 
leading role in determining the future of Portugal’s African colonies. The provisional 
president had originally outlined his decolonization program in his book. It entailed an 
indefinite, but lengthy process ending in a one-man, one- vote referendum by both black 
and whites to determine their future relationship with Portugal. However, the general’s 
idea about the pace and ultimate goal of decolonization were diametrically opposed to 
those of the majority of the MFA’s leadership, who wanted out of Africa as quickly as 
possible. Further, many official members of the first and second provisional 
governments also challenged the premises of his program. 

The overwhelming opposition to Spinola’ s program for the colonies was quickly 
manifested in the MFA’s highly secretive and rapid negotiation process with the PAIGC 


! As quoted in Marvine Howe, “Lisbon Indicates Self-Rule Policy,” New York Tunes. June 12, 1974, 9. 
~ 84 Godwin Matatu, “Angola: When the Guns Begin to Flower,” Africa, no. 39 (November 1974): 44. 



215 


ooc 

in Guinea-Bissau and FRELIMO in Mozambique. In the case of the former, 
negotiations began in late May and concluded in late August. Without ever having to 
experience a transitional government, Guinea-Bissau officially gained its full 
independence on September 10, 1974. 

Mozambique’s path was somewhat longer. Talks between Portugal and FRELIMO 
began in Lusaka, Zambia in early June and concluded on September 7. The 
independence agreement established a transitional government headed by a Portuguese 
high commissioner, but dominated by FRELIMO, to oversee the colony’s decolonization 
process. The new government became effective on September 23. As previously agreed 
upon, Mozambique became independent on June 25, 1975 

These negotiations occurred even as General Spinola continued to elaborate upon his 
ideas about decolonization, as will be discussed. Having lost the struggle over both 
Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, the general then challenged the MFA over Angola. I 
will explain the reasons for his belief that Portugal needed to retain its hegemony over the 
colony for as long as possible, as well as why he thought that it was possible for Lisbon 
to do so. However, as we will see, the general also lost the battle over Angola, and with 


~ 85 PAIGC stands for “African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.” FRELIMO 
is “Front for the Liberation of Mozambique.” Both the Portuguese and the PAIGC agreed to exclude the 
Cape Verde Islands, a major sticking point, from the negotiations on Guinea-Bissau’s independence. 
Instead, the islanders, who provided the majority of the leaders to the PAIGC, independently voted to unite 
with Guinea-Bissau in July 1975. “Cape Verde Voters Back Plan to Merge with Guinea-Bissau,” New 
York Times , July 3, 1975, 4. 



216 


it his presidency, as the MFA forced his resignation in late September 1974, ending the 
second provisional government. 

I will conclude the discussion in this chapter by addressing the difficulties that the 
third provisional government, with General Costa Gomes as president, encountered in its 
efforts to resolve Angola’s complex issues. The formidable barriers to a peaceful path to 
Angolan independence created a great potential for external interference. While the rapid 
deterioration of the January 1975 independence agreement between Lisbon and the three 
nationalist movements resulted, in part, from Lisbon’s inability to mitigate, or at least 
contain, their mutual antagonisms, especially that of the FNLA toward the MPLA, the 
resort to the violent solution was fueled by external interference in the independence 
process, including that of the United States 

The Spinola Program 

As previously noted, General Spinola’ s ideas about the decolonization process 
conflicted with those of the majority of the MFA’s leadership, who desired a rapid 
process with full independence as the end game. In contrast, the general had made it 
clear early on that while he accepted the principle of self-determination, he did not 
necessarily equate that principle to full independence, at least not in the near term. In 


286 Spinola’ s ideas about the meaning of self-determination, interestingly, appear to be a reiteration of the 
agreed-upon American and Portuguese definition of the word reached during the Kennedy Administration 



217 


Portugal and the Future he had outlined three options. The first option, which he 
rejected, proposed a complete severance of ties with the African colonies. The second 
option essentially involved maintaining the extant Metropole- African territories 
relationship. The General also rejected this option, believing that it would hasten the 
already well-developed disintegration of Portugal’s relationships with the colonies - the 
result of the colonial wars. The third option, the General’s favored solution to the 
colonial question, called for the creation of “a vast Lusitanian community” through 
peaceful means and ‘‘built upon the progressive autonomy of all its parts.” 287 

As the general continued to clarify his thoughts on the colonial question during the 
spring and summer of 1974, it became clear that he, much like Salazar and Caetano 
before him, did not believe that the African territories were as yet ready for full 
independence. In a late April meeting with representatives of the Portuguese Democratic 
Movement, a loose coalition of liberal and left wing groups, Spinola reportedly told those 
present “that they should not confuse self-determination with independence. He 
considered that there had not been sufficient preparation for the people to make a 


(as discussed in Chapter 1). That definition, as previously explained, included the understanding that 
decolonization did not necessarily equate to complete sovereignty. 

287 This interpretation of the most important parts of General Spinola’s book were provided by journalist 
Jose Shercliffe, “Sad Last Chapter to a General’s Book,” New York Times, March 16, 1974, 4. 



218 


TOO 

decision on their own future at this moment.”' The general further noted that there 
needed to be an indeterminate period of preparation during which the Portuguese would 
accelerate economic, political and administrative reconstruction and development in the 
colonies. Following this unspecified interregnum, the territorial inhabitants, both black 
and white, would have the option of maintaining ties with Portugal in the form of a 

TOQ 

commonwealth or of total independence.' 

As argued by historian Gerald Bender, the main reason for General Spinola’s emphasis 
on gradual decolonization was to provide time for the Portuguese authorities to foster the 
growth and vitality of multi-racial “third forces” within each of the colonies. These 
would act as a moderating force between the extremist white settlers on the one hand 
(that is, those who might emulate the Rhodesian whites and declare their independence 
from Portugal) and the militant black nationalists on the other (those who would settle for 
nothing less than full and immediate independence). The general apparently believed 
that the momentum of the nationalist movements for rapid and total independence could 
either be diluted or diverted into more pro-Portuguese channels by a multi-racial coalition 
of moderate black African and white settlers. Such a countervailing political force in the 


~ ss Jose Shercliffe and Harry Debelius, “General Spinola Puts off Decision on Colonies,” New York Times, 
April 30, 1974, 1. 

289 Ibid. 



219 


colonies could also move them in the direction of a continued, close association with 
Lisbon. 

Spinola had written about the formation of such “third forces” in his book. He 
realized, however, that they were virtually non-existent in the colonies and would remain 
so until Portugal undertook major reforms of the colonial economic, political and 
administrative structures. Consequently, as Gerald Bender tells us, as part of his plan, 
“the General called for massive infusions of aid. . .for the advancement of the Africans. 

He hoped that an unequivocal manifestation of Portugal’s moral and material 
commitments to the rapid advancement of the African populations would cause the 
nationalists to lay down their arms and return home as participants in the building of new 
countries .” 290 

Barriers to Implementing the Spinola Program 

The general’s grandiose scheme was improbable, if not impossible, given the realities 
of Portugal’s own economic and political circumstances, not to mention those in the 
colonies. His program, first and foremost, required a rapid and enormous commitment of 
resources that Portugal lacked, given its tenuous economic situation both before and after 
the coup." Lisbon’s failure to adapt to economic globalization, undermined in part by 

290 Bender, “Portugal and Her Colonies Join the Twentieth Century,” 144. 

291 British historian and author, Fred Brigland, who at one point in his distinguished career had been a 
leading supporter of Jonas Savimbi and UNITA, succinctly defined the decaying socio-economic condition 



220 


the massive expenditures required to fight the African wars, had left the country in a 
predictably enervated and outmoded economic position. As analyzed by Kenneth 
Maxwell, “In an expanding world economy, with abundant investment, rising tourism, 
emigrant remittances and the ability to impose labor discipline, Spinola’s program might 
just have worked.”" " At the time of the coup and in its immediate aftermath, none of 
these favorable conditions pertained as the global economic system entered a lengthy 
period of recession. Increasing inflation, decreasing wages, and widespread labor unrest 
in the aftermath of the coup further weakened Portugal’s own economic situation. 

Lisbon’s ability to finance the type of reconstruction and development in the colonies 
envisioned by the Spinola plan was also politically unworkable. It required a 
lengthy and orderly disengagement, since the general’s program for Portugal’s own 
economic renovation depended upon the wealth the country derived from its colonial 
exploitation." Yet, the leadership of the MFA had no desire for the country to continue 


of Portugal just before the April coup by noting: “Crippled economically by the costs of its overseas wars, 
tiny Portugal was... experiencing Europe’s highest rate of inflation at 23 percent, and had lost so many 
people abroad that its population had been reduced from more than 10 million at the beginning of the 1960s 
to only 8.6 million. Paris became the second-largest Portuguese city in the world, with more than 600,000 
emigres.” Fred Bridgland, Jonas Savimbi: A Key to Africa (Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing Company, 
Ltd., 1986), 104. 

292 Maxwell, “The Thorns of the Portuguese Revolution,” 259. 

293 Regarding Portugal’s dependence on the resources of its colonies, Kenneth Maxwell notes, “It was 
precisely through the exercise of sovereignty that Portugal was able to obtain any advantages at all from its 
‘civilizing mission.’ And these advantages were very considerable: cheap raw materials, large earnings 
from invisibles, the transfer of export earnings, gold and diamonds, protected markets for her wines and 
cotton textiles... Portugal faced real losses if control of her African territories was ended.” Ibid., 251. A 
CIA study, prepared only a few days after the Portuguese coup, underscored the importance of the African 



221 


its “civilizing mission,” most having witnessed firsthand the hypocrisy of such a myth. 
The movement, still the key power broker in Lisbon’s evolving political situation, was 
highly critical of the plan. The MFA, after all, had precipitated its coup in large part to 
extricate Portugal from its colonial quagmire. Spinola’s lengthy decolonization plan 
undermined this justification and jeopardized the movement’s revolutionary plans for 
Portugal itself. 

Moreover, as observed by Gerald Bender, from the earliest days following the April 
coup, many politically active Portuguese assessed the Spinola plan “as too restrictive to 
lead to a permanent (and satisfactory) settlement of the wars .” 294 Most in the government 
agreed. Mirroring the perspective of many of Lisbon’s abundant political parties and 
movements, the Minister of Interterritorial Coordination, Antonio de Almeida Santo, 
declared that, “he saw no reason why it was necessary to pass through a transitional stage 
of self-determination. The Provisional Government immediately adopted his 

,,295 

position. 


territories to the Portuguese economy. The document noted, in part, that “Except for Portuguese Guinea, 
the African provinces do in fact offer significant immediate and long-term economic re turns... Large 
corporations in the metropole control virtually all aspects of the territories’ modern economic sectors, 
including local industry, commerce, banking, and plantation agriculture. The metropole receives 
preferential trade treatment, and it controls the territories’ sizable foreign exchange receipts.” On Angola, 
the study estimated that the colony came close to paying for its own economic development and for 
fighting the insurgents. Central Intelligence Agency, Intelligence Memorandum, “The Coup in Portugal 
(Washington, D.C., April 27, 1974), p. 1 [Database on-line]; available from FOIA.CIA.Gov. 

29 1 Bender, “Portugal and Her Colonies Join the Twentieth Century,” 144. 

295 Ibid., 145. 



222 


In the colonies, the response of the African nationalists to the Spinola plan, given their 
hostility to anything that smacked of neo-colonialism, was predictably and 
overwhelmingly negative. Mozambique’s FRELIMO labeled the plan “liberal fascism” 
or “democratic colonialism.” 296 Historian Norrie MacQueen tells us that Angola’s 
Agostinho Neto, while on a speaking tour in Western Europe in late April 1974, “fired 
some warning shots across Spinolist bows by warning that the MPLA would reject a 
change of regime in Lisbon which ‘was no more than a simple demagogic manoeuvre 
with the sole objective of perpetuating colonial domination in a slightly different 
form.’” Having struggled for years to break free of the Portuguese, the nationalists 
were not inclined to accept any solution other than a speedy process toward total 
independence under their watchful aegis. 

Finally, the minority white settlers, even if aligned with pro-Portuguese blacks in a 
multi-racial “third force,” were still a “minority.” Their non-participation in the anti- 
colonial struggle and general support for Lisbon’s imperial policies translated into a lack 
of credibility and receptivity among the majority black population. Thus, it is doubtful 
they could have constituted a viable political alternative to the liberation movements 


297 MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 159. The Neto quote is from the Lisbon 
newspaper, Expresso , of May 4, 1974. 



223 


except through force of arms, a situation that the MFA was determined to avoid at all 
costs. 298 

Spinola Details his Decolonization Plan 

Despite all the strong objections and barriers to his lengthy decolonization plan, and 
even as the negotiations between the Portuguese and the PAIGC and FRELIMO were just 
getting started, the general persisted in advancing his ideas about the future status of 
Portugal’s colonies. On 1 1 June, for example, in what was billed as “a major policy 
statement on the colonial question,” Spinola reiterated his idea of gradual decolonization. 
Now, however, he not only added more details, but also introduced several new 
dimensions that if included in the negotiations would certainly have delayed 
independence indefinitely. 299 


298 According to Bender, most of the whites in the colonies welcomed the Spinola plan. “In the colonies, 
with the exception of a few thousand reactionary whites who hoped to maintain white hegemony by 
emulating their Rhodesian racist counterparts, most of the conservative whites warmly embraced Spinola’ s 
multiracial third force as the best solution.” However, as the situation in Portugal changed, with Spinola 
becoming increasingly isolated from the MFA power brokers, and with his gradual decolonization plan in 
shambles by late summer 1974 as Portugal reached agreement on independence for both Guinea-Bissau and 
Mozambique, some whites decided to jump onto the nationalist bandwagon. “More enlightened colonial 
whites, recognizing the impending reality of independence, decided to join front organizations which were 
openly running interference for the nationalists -such as the pressure group ‘Mozambican Democrats’ 
which is campaigning vociferously for FRELIMO’ s becoming the next government of Mozambique.” 
Bender, “Portugal and Her Colonies Join the Twentieth Century,” 145. Many whites, however, decided to 
leave their respective “new countries,” emigrating to Rhodesia or South Africa, or returning to Portugal, 
which only increased the strains on the severely dysfunctional Portuguese economic situation. 

299 Spinola presented his June 11, 1974 remarks on his vision for the future status of the African territories 
at a ceremony for the newly appointed Portuguese governors to Angola and Mozambique. My discussion 
of his speech is primarily based on the following. Marvine Howe, “Lisbon Indicates Self-Rule Policy,” 



224 


While the idea of self-determination was prominent in the General’s rhetoric, for the 
first time he used the word “independence,” suggesting that full sovereignty was the 
ultimate objective of the decolonization process. However, as he had maintained all 
along, such independence would be predicated upon a popular vote, or referendum, by all 
concerned to determine the ultimate political solution. That is, as it related to his 
previous writings and thoughts on the subject, both black and white inhabitants of the 
colonies would have the choice of “federation, confederation, community or the mere 
existence of totally independent states.” Moreover, he continued, the right to choose 
would come only after the Portuguese had established, “a climate of freedom and perfect 
functioning of democratic institutions.” 

Spinola then described a four-stage colonial disengagement plan that would deeply 

involve Portuguese oversight, management and resources. He expressed his concern for 

the position of the white settlers, as well as those black Africans who fought for the 

colonial army, and was contemptuous of the nationalists groups’ claim to sole 

representation. According to journalist Marvine Howe, the provisional president’s 

remarks stressed that all sectors of the populations would have their say in the territory’s 

future and that “all would have an equal voice with the nationalists.” Apparently referring 

to his preferred “third forces,” he then noted, “We will not abandon them in the cowardly 

New York Times, June 12, 1974, 12; “Spinola Explains Decolonization,” New York Times, June 16, 1974, 
191; Wilfred Burchett, “Is Portugal Marching Backward?” Manchester Guardian, June 26, 1974. 



225 


search for an easy way out or in a demagogic search for popularity.” Finally, in a bit of 
“Spinola spin,” he addressed the open-ended nature of his plan by noting, “In lieu of a 
timetable. . . decolonization would take place ‘rapidly without haste.’ He emphasized that 
the speed would depend on ‘the broad participation of the different forces present ,”’ 300 
suggesting again his hope that the political development of “third forces” in the colonies 

O A 1 

would guarantee an outcome other than full independence. 

Whatever the reasons for Spinola’ s motivations - a penchant for neo-colonialism or 
practical, hard-nosed economics, or probably a healthy dose of both - few of his 
colleagues on the JSN or the MFA’s Coordinating Committee agreed with him because, 
as noted by Kenneth Maxwell, “The MFA had made the coup to end the war not 
perpetuate it .” 302 Needless to say, those MFA officers who attended the policy 
announcement discussed above strenuously criticized the general’s remarks. Their main 
criticisms focused on the open-ended nature of the Spinola plan, the costs to Portugal of 
its implementation, and, most significantly, the fact that the African nationalists would 
not accept it.' In the aftermath of the general’s statement, then, his plan for 


300 Howe, “Lisbon Indicates Self-Rule Policy,” 9. 

301 Henry Giniger, among others, reported that General Spinola’s hope for the African colonies was that 
they would eventually vote to join in a large Portuguese commonwealth. For Spinola, a vote for 
independence “would mean a defeat for Portugal.” Henry Giniger, “Why the Old Soldier in Lisbon Faded 
Away,” New York Times, October 5, 1975, 8. 

Maxwell, “The Thorns of the Portuguese Revolution,” 260. 

303 Howe, “Lisbon Indicates Self-Rule Policy,” 9. 



226 


decolonization, which had very little support from the beginning, began to quickly 
unravel. 

The Disintegration of the Spinola Plan 

As the Spinola-MFA struggle intensified through June and July, the tenacious general 
suffered two major blows to his decolonization plan. First, in late July, he conceded to 
the MFA’s demand that he publicly promulgate Law 7/74. The law stated, in part, “The 
principle that a solution to the overseas wars is political and not military implies, in 
accordance with the United Nations charter, the recognition by Portugal of the right to 
self-determination by the people. The recognition of the principle of self-determination, 
with all its consequences, includes the acceptance of independence for overseas 
territories.” 304 However, as claimed by historian Norrie MacQueen, following the nation- 
wide announcement, Vasco Lourenco, “the MFA luminary,” met with Spinola, 
apparently to congratulate him on the speech. Lourenco indicated that he and other 
members of the MFA in attendance found the general very agitated, “as if he had just 
taken a beating. We congratulated him on his speech and he replied: ‘I know that this is 
what you wanted. But now Angola is for me.’” Although embattled and forced to 


304 “Lisbon Recognizes Rights of Colonies,” New York Times , July 25, 1974, 10. Sao Tome and Principe, 
two very small islands in the Gulf of Guinea, were apparently on no one’s agenda during the often heated 
disagreements over the other colonies and decolonization. With little or no fanfare, the two were granted 
their independence in July 1975, following a year of transitional government headed by the islands’ first 
president, Manuel Pinto da Costa. “Sao Tome and Principe Celebrate Independence,” New York Times, 
July 13, 1975, 3. 



227 


compromise on Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau, the general was not about to wave a 
white flag on Angola, because he saw it as ‘“destined to occupy one of the most 

one 

prominent positions in a Luso-Afro-Brazilian Community.’” 

The second jolt to General Spinola’s position within the MFA and government, 
especially as it related to his now diluted plan for gradual decolonization, occurred nearly 
simultaneously with the issuance of Law 7/74. The MFA leadership recalled his close 
associate and head of the Portuguese military government in Angola, General Jaime 
Silverio Marques, from Luanda. Spinola had appointed General Marques to the Luanda 
position. According to historian Fernando A. Guimaraes, however. Marques’ tenure as 
Angolan governor-general from 1962-1966, the early years of the unfolding insurgency 
in Angola, made his 1974 return a most unwelcome event for all three liberation 
movements. That aside, his brief tour in Angola during 1974 was perhaps most notable 
for his attempts, undoubtedly with the encouragement and backing of General Spinola, to 
organize political opposition to the nationalist groups, especially the leftist MPLA. In a 
replay of the old “divide and conquer” strategies employed by the pre-coup 


305 MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 160. MacQueen’s source for the Lourenco quote 
is from Jose Friere Antunes, O Factor Africano (Lisbon: Bertrand, 1990), 100. Spinola’s comment on 
Angola is from his own memoirs. Pais sent Rumo, 311. 



228 


colonial administrators, Marques established contacts with the MPLA’s primary nemesis, 
the FNLA, through President Mobutu of Zaire, in what Guimaraes has described as an 
attempt to “outflank the MPLA.” 306 

According to an Associated Press dispatch from Lisbon, the MFA apparently used the 
July outbreak of rioting, strikes, and racial violence in Luanda as a pretext for the recall 
of General Marques. Subsequently, the MFA leadership reorganized the Angolan 
administrative structure by establishing a governing “junta,” and named Rear Admiral 

O AO 

Antonio Rosa Coutinho, a leftist and JSN member, to head the group. In this new 
position, and later as high commissioner from November 1974 to mid-January 1975, both 
the FNLA and UNITA frequently accused the admiral, and apparently justifiably so, of 
supporting the MPLA at their expense. British historian Nome MacQueen noted that the 
admiral’s “MPLA sympathies were made plain by his permitting the movement access to 
the military radio network to build its support base. The origins of Rosa Coutinho’s 
partisanship may have been personal as well as ideological. During the war he had been 


306 Guimaraes, The Origins of the Angolan Civil War, 92. A prime example of Portuguese attempts to 
contain the insurgency through divide and conquer tactics was their employment of Africans in the colonial 
army to fight the African nationalists, thereby increasing ethnic rivalries and strife. 

307 The AP report, which was carried in the New York Times, noted that Marques was recalled “after a week 
of turmoil in the African colony in which 54 persons were killed.” “Lisbon Names New Head of 
Government,” New York Times, July 25, 1974, 6. 

308 Ibid. Admiral Coutinho soon found that governing the colony through the junta was ineffective. Acting 
upon his advice, in late November 1974, the MFA leadership in Lisbon dissolved the body and appointed 
the admiral as high commissioner. MacQueen, “The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa,” 173. 



229 


captured and mistreated by the UPA (the earlier incarnation of the FNLA) and as a result 
nursed a deep antipathy for Roberto and all his works.” 309 

Although Spinola approved Admiral Coutinho’s appointment, perhaps having no other 
option, the admiral’s new position was critical to the strengthening of the MPLA as the 
movement attempted to out-maneuver the other two nationalists groups for power before 
the Alvor agreement of January 1975. His presence in Luanda at this crucial time in 
Angolan history became “the fly in the ointment” for Spinola’ s Angolan decolonization 
plan. As MacQueen pointed out, with Coutinho’s replacement of Silverio Marques, “The 
political colour of the Portuguese administration in Angola now moved to the other end 
of the spectrum. The former Salazarist was now effectively replaced by a pro-MPLA 

Q 1 A 

Marxist and the consequences for Spinola’ s project in Angola were considerable.” 

Admiral Coutinho was not the only MPLA sympathizer in the Armed Forces 
Movement or the Portuguese government. Agostinho Neto enjoyed close connections 


310 Ibid., 163-164. Admiral Coutinho’s leading critics, especially Mobutu of Zaire and Holden Roberto of 
the FNLA, sometimes referred to him as “the Red Admiral,” expressing their perspective of the admiral’s 
ideological disposition. While he was to the left on the political spectrum and certainly pro-MPLA, the 
admiral was no Communist, as Mario Soares, the Socialist Party leader indicated to Henry Kissinger. The 
latter was concerned about the admiral’s influence on Portuguese politics after his return from Luanda 
following the Alvor agreement in mid-Ianuary 1975. In a late January 1975 meeting between Soares and 
Kissinger, Soares noted that Coutinho didn’t like the Socialist leadership but that he was also leery about 
the heavy reliance of the MFA on the PCP for support. He then opined that Coutinho desired to establish 
his own political force somewhere between the Socialists and the Communists. Secretary of State Message 
292048Z January 1976 to American Embassy, Lisbon, “Subject: Secretary’s Meeting with Mario Soares, 
26 January 1976,” p. 3, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, 
Portugal - State Department Telegrams From SecState - NODIS (2), Box 11, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



230 


with the leftist element in the MFA and both the Portuguese Socialist and Communist 
Parties. These ties dated back to his days as a student in Lisbon in the late 1940s. The 
MPLA also benefited from the small, educated, left-wing white constituency in Angola, 
and the leaders of the movement, as well as many in the rank-and-file membership, were 
largely mixed Angolan-Portuguese mesticos. These factors contributed to what 
MacQueen described as “a generalized undercurrent of sympathy for the MPLA in 
Lisbon’s revolutionary politics at this time.” But it was the admiral who was on-scene 
in Luanda and who was in the best position to lend a hand to Neto’s Popular Movement 
in thwarting Spinola’ s plan for the colony - a task that the admiral undertook with relish 
until his own recall to Lisbon in January 1975. 

Despite these setbacks, Spinola’ s fight for Angola was not yet finished. In the middle 
of August, the Junta of National Salvation, reportedly acting on Spinola’ s initiative, 


311 MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 164-165. Kenneth Maxwell provides a detailed 
overview of Agostinho Neto’s intimate connections with the Portuguese left as well as the leadership of the 
PAIGC and FRELIMO in “Portugal and Africa: The Last Empire,” in The Transfer of Power in Africa: 
Decolonization, 1940-1960 , eds. Prosser Gifford and William Rogers Louis (New Haven: Yale University 
Press, 1982), 354-355. In the late 1940s, among other associations, Neto was a member of the central 
committee for the youth component of the United Democratic Movement on Portugal (MUD), an anti- 
fascist organization that included PCP members, the future leader of the PAIGC, Amilcar Cabral, and 
Marcelino dos Santos of FRELIMO. At the same time, he also met Mario Soares, future leader of the 
Portuguese Socialist Party and one of post-coup Portugal’s foreign ministers, who also belonged to the 
MUD’s youth component. As Maxwell observed, “If Neto’s connections in the anti-Salazar underground 
made him suspect to Washington (as indeed such connections made Mario Soares until the April 1975 
Portuguese elections revealed him to be the main democratic bulwark against communism), they were to 
stand him in good stead in Portugal after the April 25 coup. Unlike Holden Roberto, who had spent less 
than two years in Angola in his whole life, and almost no time in Portugal, Agostinho Neto knew the 
Portuguese Left from the inside.” Ibid., 354. 



231 


issued a revised plan for Angola’s decolonization, which called for a lengthy process 
beginning with the negotiating of ceasefires with the three nationalist movements. This 
was to be followed by the formation of a provisional government consisting not only of 
the nationalists, but also representation from other political and ethnic groups within the 
colony. Once these conditions had been met, the provisional government was to arrange 
for elections to a constituent assembly based on universal suffrage. The assembly would 
then draft a constitution spelling out, among other things, the future of the Portuguese- 
Angolan relationship. After the constitution was approved, the constituent assembly was 
to schedule new elections, again on a one -person, one-vote basis, to elect a governing 

o i o 

legislative assembly. 

The proposed plan was fraught with difficulties, not the least of which was the three 
nationalist movements’ continuing commitment to immediate and unconditional 
independence - a condition they insisted the Portuguese agree to before they would 
negotiate a ceasefire. Spinola, however, viewed the transition period, expected to last up 
to three years, as the opportunity he needed to put his Angolan plan into motion. It gave 
him time, however limited, to oversee the formation of pro-Portuguese “third forces” in 


312 My discussion of the revised plan for Angola is largely based on MacQueen’s examination of the 
proposal in The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 165-166, and on “Lisbon Freeing Two Colonies,” 
New York Times, August 11, 1974, 172, and “Lisbon Announces a Two-Year Plan to Free Angolans,” New 
York Times, August 11, 1974, 1-2. 



232 


the colony, thereby improving the prospects for Angola’s continued, close links to the 
metropole. 313 

His somewhat guarded optimism for the plan’s success, however, was short-lived. As 
to be expected, both the MPLA and FNLA rejected the plan. UNITA, which had 
engaged in an unofficial ceasefire with the Portuguese since June 1974, announced that it 
would only participate in the proposal if the other two movements agreed to it. 314 By 
late summer, then, Spinola’s hopes for holding on to Angola appeared to be have been 
dashed by the Angolan nationalists’ perception that Lisbon had reversed its 
commitment to independence as promulgated in July’s Law 7/74. Still, the general had 
one ace left up his sleeve - the Zairian connection - a link that had already been initiated 
by his friend and former military governor in Angola, General Jaime Silverio Marques. 

Before discussing General Spinola’s effort to use Zaire’s President Mobutu to 
facilitate his neo-colonial plan for Angola, it is important to understand why he so 
persistently tried to force his long-term designs for the colony upon the provisional 
government and the MFA’s leadership. The general based his ambitious program for 
Angola upon the belief that it was not only essential for Portugal’s own economic 

313 According to Norrie MacQueen, despite the inherent difficulties of the plan, Spinola remained intent on 
making it work by personally overseeing the process and by steering “it in the desired direction.” 
MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 169. The “desired direction,” of course, was some 
type of neo-colonial arrangement between the metropole and Angola. 

314 Ibid., 166. Also, “Lisbon Announces A Two-Year Angola Plan,” 2. 



233 


rehabilitation to continue to exploit its wealth, but also possible to do so given certain 
exceptional circumstances which, within the Lusitanian empire, pertained only to Angola. 

The Flawed Empire 

In the immediate post-coup time frame, Spinola and his supporters, which included 
the leaders of Portugal’s major economic monopolies, believed that it was necessary to 

T 1 C 

hold onto all of Portugal’s African colonies. However, their viewpoint was based as 
much on the psychological dimensions of the Portuguese empire as it was on more 
realistic considerations, such as the overseas territories’ contributions to Portugal’s neo- 
mercantilist economy. Less Angola and Mozambique, the colonies were often more 
economically burdensome than profitable. Moreover, their retention, especially in the 
cases of Portuguese Guinea and Mozambique, had become increasingly costly as the 
liberation movements in each grew in strength and popularity both before and after the 
April coup. 

Guinea-Bissau was small and poor, with a total population of about 800,000 at the 
time of the Portuguese. The colony possessed few natural resources, and manufacturing 


315 Many of Portugal’s major economic monopolies, or oligarchs, supported the Spinola plan for a very 
slow decolonization, perhaps generational in time, and for the development of Portugal along evolutionary 
lines. Their ideas conflicted with the radical leftist in the MFA who called for a rapid disengagement from 
the colonies and revolutionary socio-economic change in Portugal. Such a program, of course, threatened 
the interests of the monopolies whose financial stakes in various enterprises throughout the whole of 
southern Africa have been well documented by Kenneth Maxwell in “Portugal and Africa: The Last 
Empire,” in The Transfer of Power in Africa: Decolonization, 1940-1960, eds. Prosser Gifford and 
William Rogers Louis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), 357-359 



234 


and industrial development were virtually non-existent. It did process and export some 
agricultural products through the Portuguese company, CUF (Companhia Unias Fabril), 
to which General Spinola was connected by marriage . 316 The Cape Verde Islands, 
subsumed under the mantel of the PAIGC whose leaders were largely Cape Verdeans, 
were more important to NATO (and, hence, the United States) because of their strategic 

Tl'7 

location than they were to Portugal/ Sao Tome and Principe, little more than two very 
small dots in a large Atlantic Ocean were most notable for their exportation of primary 
commodities such as cocoa, coffee and sugar, all subject to frequent global price 
fluctuations. The economic value to Lisbon of these small, resource-challenged colonies 
was minimal. However, as noted by Kenneth Maxwell, Portugal’s two largest and richest 


316 As reported in “Portugal, Africa and the Future,” Africa, no. 35 (July 1974): 16. 

317 As previously discussed, the Portuguese and the PAIGC agreed to exclude the Cape Verde Islands from 
the independence negotiations on Guinea-Bissau. According to journalist Miguel Acoca, who covered the 
talks for the Washington Post, the MFA, under pressure from Washington, insisted that the islands be a 
separate issue from Guinea-Bissau’s own independence. He argues that General Spinola also insisted on 
this condition, and that he still retained enough power in the government to influence the issue. Acoca 
explains that the anti -Communist Spinola “In his writings, has declared that Portugal could not permit the 
Cape Verde Islands, which lie on the sea lane plied by supertankers loaded with Middle East oil bound for 
Europe and the United States, to fall into Communist hands.” Miguel Acoca, “Lisbon Officer Questions 
Long-Term U.S. Intentions,” Washington Post, May 24, 1974. Foreign correspondent Jonathan C. Randal 
supports Acoca’s assertions that the MFA wished to appease the United States on the Cape Verde Islands 
issue. He wrote that in early October, the French satirical weekly, Le Canard Enchaine, alleged that 
Kissinger had influenced the MFA decision. The Secretary of State “let the revolutionary Portuguese 
leadership know in May that the ‘United States was not opposed to independence for Guinea Bissau, but 
would not stand for the Portuguese giving up the Cape Verde Islands to the Guineans.’ Kissinger’s 
warning was based on fears that ‘one day’ the Soviets would set up a naval air base on the strategically 
located islands off the coast of West Africa if they ceased to be Portuguese.” Jonathan C. Randal, “CIA 
Role is Alleged in Portugal,” Washington Post, October 17, 1974. 



235 


colonies, Mozambique and Angola, were a different matter. In both colonies, but 

•5 1 Q 

especially Angola, “The stakes... were very high indeed.” 

Mozambique had contributed substantially to the metropole’s coffers. The colony 
exported all of its substantial annual cotton production and most of its sugar to Portugal 
at prices well below market value. Further, as Maxwell observed, “the wages of the 
Mozambique miners in South Africa were converted into gold shipments to Lisbon - in 
effect a hidden subsidy to the Portuguese war effort. During the three years before the 
coup, the official value of this gold amounted to at least $180 million.” 319 

Still, the military situation in Mozambique was much more problematic than that in 
Angola. In the latter, the three mutually hostile insurgent movements had made little 
headway in wresting territory away from the Portuguese colonial army. In contrast, at the 
time of the Portuguese coup, FRELIMO controlled over one-third of Mozambique, 
mainly in the north, and was successfully pressing its military operations southward. The 
harsh reality of the situation was that Portugal was losing in Mozambique. Intensifying 
Portuguese counterinsurgency operations there might slow, but would not prevent, a 
FRELIMO victory, even had the MFA decided to do so. Given these realities, and 
having been outmaneuvered by his opponents in the government and by the young 
officers of the MFA over Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, General Spinola, somewhat 

318 Maxwell, “Portugal and Africa: The Last Empire,” 358. 

319 



236 


begrudgingly, accepted the impending independence of both. Still, he tenaciously clung 
to a plan for Angola’s gradual decolonization. 

Angolan Exceptionalism and the Spinola Plan 

Angola was noteworthy in comparison to Portugal’s other colonies in Africa for three 
broadly categorized reasons. First, the territory was rich in natural resources - a latent 
regional economic powerhouse whose potentiality was only beginning to be realized in 
the early 1970s. Secondly, Angola’s white settler population, at over 300,000, was the 
largest in Africa outside of the Republic of South Africa. Many of them desired to 
continue at least a commonwealth-type arrangement with Portugal. Thirdly, the 
colony’s three liberation movements seemed incapable of setting aside their differences 
to form a united front. Moreover, formidable discord and factionalism within the MPLA 
- the Communist-fearing Spinola’ s bete noire - made it susceptible to divide and conquer 
tactics. “ These distinct Angolan qualities came together in somewhat of a synergistic 


320 Gerald Bender and P. Stanley Yoder’s analysis of the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the white 
settler population in Angola, which they concluded was about 335,000 at the time of the April coup, 
underscores the importance of this segment of the population in any referendum on the future Angolan- 
Portuguese relationship. As they noted, “The vast majority of Portuguese in Angola, relatively uneducated 
and unskilled, are cognizant that there are few or no economic possibilities for them in Portugal; at the 
same time they fear there will be no place for them in an independent Angola. Their reaction within 
months after the overthrow of the Portuguese dictatorship in April, 1974 was to attempt to maintain the 
status quo through protest and violence.” Gerald J. Bender and P. Stanley Yoder, “ Whites in Angola on 
the Eve of Independence: The Politics of Numbers,” Africa Today 21, no. 4 (Fall 1974): 37. 

321 The historiography of Angola both before and following the Portuguese coup is rich with analyses of 
these three broad categories that made Angola unique in comparison with Portugal’s other African 
colonies. Among the most notable studies that assess Angola’s exceptional circumstances are the 
following: the previously cited two-volume work by John A. Marcum, The Anatomy of an Explosion 



237 


fashion to produce an enticing situation for those, like General Spinola, who believed 
continued exploitation of Angola’s natural wealth was necessary for Portugal’s own 

322 

economic recovery. 

Angola’s Natural Resources 

Angola was the real jewel in the Lusitanian empire’s crown, especially from an 
economic standpoint. The colony had experienced an economic boom beginning in the 
early 1960s, despite the commencement of guerrilla warfare in 1961. In fact, according 
to author George Wright, it was the onset of the insurgency that prompted the Salazar 


(1950-1962) and Exile Politics and Guerrilla Warfare (1962-1972); Wright, The Destruction of a Nation ; 
Bender, Angola Under the Portuguese', MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa', Maxwell, 
“Portugal and Africa: The Last Empire,” and “The Thorns of the Portuguese Revolution;” Guimaraes, The 
Origins of the Angolan Civil War; also William Minter, Portuguese Africa and the West (Baltimore: 
Penguin Books Inc., 1972) and Apartheid’s Contras: An Inquiry into the Roots of War in Angola and 
Mozambique (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Zed Books, , 1994). Notable studies focusing on Angola’s people, 
especially the ethnic and regional dimensions of the nation’s demographics, include: Bender and Yoder, 
“Whites in Angola on the Eve of Independence: The Politics of Numbers;” Basil Davidson, In the Eye of 
the Storm: Angola’s People (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday & Company); Christine Messiant, “Angola: 

The Challenge of Statehood,” in History of Central Africa: The Contemporary Years since 1960, 131-165, 
eds. David Birmingham and Phyllis M. Martin (New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1998); 
Marcum, “The Anguish of Angola: On Becoming Independent in the Last Quarter of the Twentieth 
Century.” The sections on Angola from Africa Contemporary Record, Annual Survey and Documents, 
1974-1974 and 1975-1976 (New York: Africana Publishing Company) detail the qualitative and 
quantitative aspects of Angola’s economic wealth. The oil wealth of Angola’s Cabinda enclave, as well as 
the ethnic composition of its people and the activities of the FNLA, MPLA and the two branches of the 
Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave (FLEC) in the province, which is separated from Angola 
proper by a thin strip of Zairian territory, is detailed in Phyllis M Martin, “The Cabinda Connection: An 
Historical Perspective, “ African Affairs 76, no. 301 (1977): 47-59. 

322 Regarding Angola’s economic value to Portugal, and hence to the Spinola plan, Kenneth Maxwell has 
observed, “...while Portugal was herself in chronic deficit in her foreign transactions, the balance of the 
escudo areas as a whole showed a healthy surplus. This surplus was based preeminently on Angola’s 
earnings: for the process of expansion and development in Portugal to succeed, Angola’s retention for a 
number of years seemed essential.” Maxwell, “The Thorns of the Portuguese Revolution,” 259-260. 



238 


regime to implement reforms in its colonial policy in order to spur economic growth. 

This was not done for entirely altruistic reasons, but rather to bring in additional revenues 
and support for the Portuguese counterinsurgency efforts. Portugal’s economic reforms 
included the decision to allow liberal foreign investment in the colony, most notably from 
the United States, South Africa and Western Europe. Lisbon also actively encouraged 
Portuguese involvement in joint ventures with foreign corporations, making its 
metropolitan entrepreneurs stakeholders in Angola’s future and further cementing the 
Lisbon-Luanda axis. As a result of these initiatives, Angola’s economic growth averaged 

323 

thirteen percent during the entire decade. 

Oil, more than another other natural resource, led the Angolan economic boom of the 
1960s, which accelerated in the early 1970s as the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company 
successfully exploited it virtual monopoly of the enclave’s black gold. Phyllis M. Martin, 
a historian of African colonial and post-colonial history, has analyzed the growing 
significance of the 1959 discovery of large oil reserves off the Cabindan coast to the 
Angolan, and thus, the Portuguese economy. Despite the enclave’s wealth in timber, 
agricultural and mineral resources, primarily phosphates and potassium, Cabindan 
exports in 1962 comprised only 1.27 percent of Angola’s total. By mid-1972, however, 
that figure had risen to 25 percent, “the increase largely due to the exploitation of 

323 Wright, The Destruction of a Nation , 14. American investment was concentrated in the extractive 
sector, primarily diamonds (through the Anglo-American Corporation), iron ore, and most importantly, oil. 



239 


offshore oil by the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company. In 1974, for the first time, crude oil was 
Angola’s major source of foreign exchange most of it coming from Cabinda. The taxes 
and royalties that Gulf Oil paid to the Luanda government in that year made up some 40 

324 

percent of the Angolan budget.” 

Oil production’s contribution to Angola’s surging economy was supplemented by 
large annual increases in the export of coffee, diamonds, iron ore, cotton, and a handful 
of other staples. From 1972 to 1973, for example, while oil exports rose by nearly 63 
percent, raw cotton exports rose by 118 percent, coffee by nearly 35 percent, diamonds 
26.3 percent, and iron ore 19.7 percent. “ After the Portuguese coup, as labor unrest 
wracked the colony’s economy and racial conflicts arose, production in Angola’s major 


324 Martin, “The Cabinda Connection,” 56-57. In an ironic twist, during the 1975 civil war, the Cabinda 
Gulf Oil Company, an American corporation and the largest foreign investor in all of Angola, continued its 
operations largely uninterrupted, protected by Cuban and MPLA soldiers, while the American-backed 
FNLA and UNITA struggled to dislodge the MPLA and its Cuban supporters from Luanda. George Wright 
argues that such an incongruity belies a strictly Marxist-Leninist interpretation of history. He notes that a 
concept that emerged, indeed, stood out, in his study is that “the US imperial state has a ‘relative 
autonomy’ in relation to US capital as it carries out foreign policy. This was particularly evident when the 
Reagan administration supported destabilization of Angola while Gulf Oil, which provided the Angolan 
government over 65 per cent of its foreign exchange, lobbied the administration to normalize relations with 
Angola.” Wright, The Destruction of a Nation , ix. British journalist and author, Colin Legum, has 
supported this argument in numerous works on the Angolan civil war, including his early article on the war, 
“Foreign Intervention in Angola,” in Africa Contemporary Record , Annual Survey and Documents, 1 975- 
1976 (New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1976), A3-A38. 

325 “Angola,” Africa Contemporary Record, Annual Survey and Documents, 1974-1975 (Africana 
Publishing Company, 1975), B543. 



240 


exports fell off slightly. The exception was Cabindan oil, which increased nearly 100 
percent from 1973 through latel974. 326 

Added to the revenues generated by exploitation of Angola’s riches were the 
substantial remittances received from both Zaire and Zambia for their use of the 
Benguela railway. This important transportation network connects the copper areas of 
Zaire’s Shaba (formerly Katanga) province and northern Zambia to the Atlantic Ocean 
port of Lobito (Benguela’s seaport). Commercial traffic on this nearly 1,000 mile rail 
line also carried essential imports to Zaire and Zambia, and thousands of Angolan 
laborers were employed in off-loading and on-loading operations in Lobito. The only 
alternatives to Zaire and Zambia’s use of this indispensable lifeline to the Atlantic’s 
seaways were expensive, slow, and inefficient. 327 

Of final importance to the Angolan economic surge of the 1960 and early 1970s, and 
to the Portuguese treasury, were the South African investment and remittances associated 


3 ~ 6 “Angola,” Africa Contemporary Record, Annual Survey and Documents, 1975-1976 (Africana 
Publishing Company, 1976), B436. The ACR reported that crude oil exports rose from 5,755 (in million 
escudos) in 1973 to 10, 789 as of September 1974. In 1973, the United States became the leading importer 
of Angolan goods, outpacing Portugal by nearly three percent in both 1973 and 1974, and the EEC 
countries of the Netherlands, West Germany, and the United Kingdom by fourteen and twenty-two percent, 
in each of those years, respectively. Ibid. 

327 Zaire’s alternative route lay in railroad and Congo River transshipment to the Zairian port of Matadi 
whose cargo-handling capacity, at any rate, was small compared to that of Lobito. Zambia’s closed borders 
with Rhodesia prohibited shipments through that country to Mozambique’s seaports. The TanZam railroad, 
financed and constructed by the People’s Republic of China in the late 1960s, carried some Zambian 
exports and imports to and from Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania. However, as pointed out by Kenneth 
Maxwell, its capacity was well below that of the Benguela railroad and the facilities at the Dar es Salaam 
terminal were congested. Maxwell, “Portugal and Africa: The Last Empire,” 344. 



241 


with the construction and operation of the Cunene River hydroelectric complex in 
southern Angolan, which brought both power and water to Namibia (Southwest Africa). 
Construction on this immense project consisting of over 200 dams inside Angola, but 
with its electrical generating plants inside Namibia, began in 1969 after Portugal agreed 
to the South African plan to use the river’s energy to develop and exploit Namibia’s vast 
mineral resources, including uranium and diamonds. 

Given Angola’s diversified and booming economy, it is little wonder that General 
Spinola and his supporters regarded the retention of Angola, for as long as possible, as 
essential to Portugal’s own economic well-being and development. Of paramount 
importance, of course, was that Spinola believed that both the presence of a substantial 
number of fearful white settlers and the hostility among Angola’s liberation movements 
enabled his long-range plan for Angola, subjects to which I now turn. 

Angola’s Whites 

Following the April coup, a number of political movements developed in Angola. 
These organizations spanned the whole range of attitudes and positions on the direction 
of the colony’s future. Other than the three nationalist movements, however, there was a 
notable lack of strictly black African political groupings, because, as offered by historian 
Norrie MacQueen, “The three guerrilla movements in their different ideological and 
ethnic facets appeared adequately to represent the various aspirations of the African 



242 


TOO 

intelligentsia as well as the broader masses.” Within the substantial white settler 
community, however, more than thirty political movements arose in the aftermath of the 
coup. According to the African Contemporary Record , the Angolan liberation 
movements opposed these “phantom parties,” because most were led by their opponents, 
“and seemed designed either openly to defend settler interests or to divert African 
support.” 329 

Despite the ongoing insurgency, which by 1964 the Portuguese had managed to 
contain to small isolated areas of the country as a low-intensity conflict, Angola’s 
booming economy, based on its natural mineral and agricultural wealth, had served as a 
magnet to Portugal’s impoverished and unemployed or underemployed thousands. As 
analyzed by Gerald Bender and his colleague, P. Stanley Yoder, these settlers were, by 
and large, semi- or unskilled laborers, with little education and fearful of any change that 
might threaten the perquisites they enjoyed as white Portuguese. “As the largest and 
richest of the Portuguese colonies, Angola attracted the most white settlers - a large 
number of whom are intransigently opposed to any change in the political or economic 


328 MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 162. 

329 “Angola,” African Contemporary Record, 1974-1975, B529. The estimate on the white population 
ranged from 350,000 to a high of 750,000. Historians Gerald Bender and P. Stanley Yoder, however, 
assessed the settler numbers at no more than 335,000. Bender and Yoder, “Whites in Angola,” 37. Even 
assuming that this low-end estimate is reasonably accurate, Angola’s white population was still second only 
to the Republic of South Africa in all of Africa. 



243 


status quo.” It was upon the fears of these majority settler stakeholders - and not the 

reactionary white political groups with their potential to declare Angolan independence 

or the minority liberal white movements, which tended to favor a more pro-black 

nationalist position - that General Spinola intended to capitalize in his quest for the 

« 1 

formation of third forces within Angola’s socio-economic strata. His efforts to do so 
will be discussed later in this chapter. 

Angola’s National Liberation Movements 

In addition to what he saw as a favorable white settler situation in Angola, the 
existence of three fiercely competitive liberation movements reinforced Spinola’ s hopes 
for his Angolan plan. In late July 1974 following the proclamation of Law 7/74, the 

TOO 

MPLA and FNLA had agreed, in principle, to the formation of a united front. 

However, as in the many historical African attempts to unite the MPLA and FNLA, the 
long-standing hostility between Holden Roberto and Agostinho Neto undermined the 


330 Bender and Yoder, “Whites in Angola,” 23. 

331 The two most extreme white groups were the Angolan Resistance Front (FRA), an openly racist party 
led by ex-serviceman Pompilio da Cruz, which in early October 1974 unsuccessfully attempted to 
overthrow the MFA junta led by Admiral Coutinho, and the Angolan Christian Democratic Party (PCD A), 
led by Antonio Ferronha. Although this party appeared moderate at first, its innocuous name belied its 
covert racist nature and its propensity for violence, which manifested itself in white rioting in the fall of 
1974. MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 162 and “Angola,” Africa Contemporary 
Record, 1974-1975, B529 

332 The heads of state of the Congo (Brazzaville), Tanzania, Zambia and Zaire brokered the deal that, 
according to African journalist Raph Uwechue, attempted to “Hammer out a common front solid enough 
for presentation to the Portuguese.” Raph Uwechue, “Angola’s Hour,” Africa, no. 38 (October 1974): 7. 



244 


agreement and the two most powerful movements quickly resumed their mutually 
antagonistic ways. 

John Marcum’s two- volume study of the Angolan revolution provides the most 
detailed and accurate picture of the internecine struggle among all three nationalist 
movements. Their rivalry, which included violence against each other on a par with the 
violence against the Portuguese, was based, in part, on ethnic, class, regional and 
ideological differences. However, their inability to reconcile, or at least temporarily set 
aside, their differences in order to form a united front against the Portuguese resulted 

333 

mostly from the personalities and egos of the three leaders themselves. 

Then, too, Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA, the weakest militarily of the three 
movements, had defected from the FNLA in 1964, citing Roberto’s authoritarianism as 
the reason. Additionally, he had apparently cooperated with the Portuguese in the early 
1970s, essentially giving them a free hand to move against both the MPLA and FNLA in 
Eastern Angola without having to worry about UNITA’s guerrillas. After the Portuguese 
coup, the MFA seized many of the PIDE and military documents outlining this 
collaborative effort and released some of the details of the operation. The exposure of 
Savimbi’s treason further aroused the FNLA and MPLA’s distrust of UNITA’s 


333 Marcum, The Angolan Revolution , vol. I, The Anatomy of an Explosion, and vol. II, Exile Politics and 
Guerrilla Warfare, passim. 



245 


opportunistic leader and created another divide-and-conquer opportunity for Spinola’s 
Angolan plan. 334 

Importantly, the MPLA itself was severely divided among three factions. The main 
rivalry to Neto’s leadership came from his former deputy, Daniel Chipenda, who directed 
the MPLA’s operation in Eastern Angola, beginning in 1966, from his base in Zambia. 
Chipenda, an Ovimbundu like UNITA’s Jonas Savimbi, was probably the most 
knowledgeable and effective military commander within any of the three nationalist 
movements. He commanded an estimated 2,000-3,000 battle-tested MPLA guerrillas, 
and his ongoing rivalry with Neto presented an opportunity to seriously weaken the 

TOC 

MPLA by exploiting the increasingly divisive internal struggle. 

General Spinola’s Last Hurrah 

Given the stakes and opportunities involved in the volatile Angolan environment, in 
mid-September 1974, only two weeks before his resignation from the presidency, 

General Spinola decided to play the Zairian card and called upon President Mobutu, the 
major sponsor of the LNLA’s Holden Roberto, for assistance in his Angolan strategy. 


334 For a discussion of the Savimbi-Portuguese cooperation, see William Minter, Operation Timber: Pages 
from the Savimbi Dossier (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1988), and “The Savimbi Letters: The Long 
Treason of UNIT A,” in Dirty Work 2: The CIA in Africa , eds. Ellen Ray, William Scrap, and Karl Van 
Meter (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1979), 220-230. 

335 Chipenda’s Ovimbundu ethnicity also set him apart from the majority of the MPLA’s leadership, which 
was largely Mbundu or Mestico. 



246 


In a last-ditch effort to hold onto Angola, he made a brief and secretive trip to Sal (in the 
Cape Verde Islands) where he met with President Mobutu, accompanied by Holden 
Roberto. It should be noted that at the time of the Sal meeting, only one of the three 
liberations movements, UNITA, had agreed to a ceasefire in Angola, and that had yet to 
be formalized. The MPLA and Portuguese began observing a de facto ceasefire after the 
pro-MPLA Admiral Coutinho’s arrival in Luanda in late July, but there was no de jure 
agreement. Neither an informal nor formal arrangement existed between the FNLA and 
the Portuguese. In fact, Holden Roberto, known for his belligerence, vowed in July that 
his FNLA would keep on fighting, claiming, “We will step up our operations. This is the 
only alternative for our group. We will fight for another 13 years if necessary.” 336 

The inability of the Portuguese government to negotiate formal ceasefires with each of 
the nationalist movements has led some observers of Spinola’s Sal meeting with Mobutu 
to suggest it was nothing more than a effort to get the FNLA, the strongest and most 
militant of the three groups, to agree to a ceasefire. Nicholas Ashford, reporting for The 
Times of London, opined that Spinola’s purpose for the meeting was to solicit Mobutu’s 
support in achieving a peaceful transfer of power in Angola. This included asking “Zaire 
to persuade the FNLA to lay down its arms and take part in peace negotiations.” 337 Also, 

336 Thomas A. Johnson, “Angola Rebels Refuse to Form a Joint Front for Truce Talks,” New York Times, 
July 14, 1974, 12. 

337 Nicholas Ashford, “Portugal Discusses future of Angola with Zaire,” The Times, September 16, 1974, 6. 



247 


in his memoirs, Pais sem Rumo, Spinola revealed that he had accepted an invitation from 
Mobutu for a meeting and that the two had reached no agreement other than a pledge of 

TOO 

non-interference in Angolan matters from Mobutu. On the surface, then, it appears 
that the meeting was intended, in some way, to further the peace process in Angola by 
enlisting the support, or at least the non-interference, of Angola’s important neighbor, 
Zaire. 

Had Spinola’s and especially Mobutu’s ensuing actions been more open and less 
suspicious-looking, the official statement issued after their meeting on Sal might have 
sufficed to quell what turned into an avalanche of theoretical speculations about the 
“hidden,” and thus real, purpose of the meeting. According to MacQueen, the 
communique “stated merely that the ‘presidents of the Republic of Zaire and of Portugal 
met on the island of Sal for an exchange of views. Among other things discussed were 
problems related to the decolonization process underway in the Portuguese African 
territories.’” Yet, only a week after his meeting with Mobutu on Sal, Spinola called a 


338 Spinola, as cited in MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 168. If Mobutu did promise 
not to interfere in Angola, as Spinola alleged, it was a short-lived pledge, as, among other things, Zaire 
became the transshipment point for American military equipment provided to the FNLA starting in late 
July 1975. Mobutu also provided units of his own army to augment the FNLA, in the spring of 1975, and 
later in the early fall of 1975. They eventually proved as ineffective as the FNLA itself in the face of 
Cuban advisers and trainers, and later combatants, and Soviet equipment. 

339 Ibid., note 37, 199. MacQueen’s source is the Lisbon newspaper, Diario de Noticias, September 16, 
1974. Interestingly, like his meeting with President Nixon in June, Spinola reportedly met alone with 
Mobutu, with only a Zairian interpreter present, despite the sizeable contingents each brought with him. 



248 


group of “third forces” (forcas vivas) to a meeting in Lisbon, apparently to discuss their 
participation in any Angolan provisional government that might eventually be formed. 

As reported by then Pravda journalist, Oleg Ignatyev, the published list of the attendees 
(twenty-three in all) included those most intent on subverting “the process of genuine 
decolonization .” 340 

According to MacQueen, however, the most reactionary white political movements 
were not invited. No doubt, Spinola believed their objective - the “Rhodesian 
temptation,” as Admiral Coutinho put it - threatened his neocolonial plans and their non- 
participation is, therefore, not surprising . 141 Notably, and also not surprisingly, 
representatives of the liberation groups were not invited, including the Democratic 
Movement of Angola (MDA), an organization Ignatyev described as the political wing of 
the MPLA: “The MDA had been established to publicize and explain the aims and tasks 
of the MPLA. . .It has branches in all the towns of the country and unites tens of 
thousands of people.” Ignatyev tells us that when Admiral Coutinho was informed of 


Ibid., 167. Also of interest. Admiral Coutinho, the top Portuguese representative in Angola, was only 
apprised of the Sal meeting in its aftermath. 

340 Oleg Ignatyev, “Angola on the Threshold of Change,” New Times (Moscow), no. 46 (November 1974): 
15. 

341 MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 169, 171. 

342 Ignatyev, “Angola on the Threshold of Change,” 14. Also reported in Oleg Ignatyev, Secret Weapon in 
Africa, trans. David Fidlon (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), 97, 103. MacQueen confirms 
Ignatyev’s assertion that representatives of the three NLMs were not invited but adds that the settler 
representation did not include liberal white groups either. Again, this is not particularly surprising since the 



249 


this meeting, after the fact like the meeting on Sal, he remarked, “The representatives of 
the organizations invited for talks can hardly be described as people expressing the 
aspirations and opinions of the Angolans.” 

This secretive, selective conclave in Lisbon, following closely on the heels of the 
Mobutu-Spinola talks in Sal, and especially considering the political leanings of those 
groups in attendance, many of which had connections with Zaire, began the liturgy of 
conjecture that continues to surround the Sal meeting . 344 
The Hidden Agenda of the Sal Meeting 

Speculations on the purpose of the Mobutu-Spinola meeting on Sal generally center 
on a narrative in which the two heads of state agreed to exclude, or at least marginalize, 
the Neto faction of the MPLA. To accomplish this, they would only recognize the 
MPLA’s splinter Chipenda faction, with Holden Roberto as the ostensible leader of a 
united FNLA-MPLA-(Chipenda)-UNITA alliance. Spinola, at least, apparently believed 
this triad grouping would be more amenable to permitting white settler political 
participation (his hoped for pro-Portuguese “Third Force”) in a transitional Angolan 
government. Most historians who have studied and written about the Portuguese 
decolonization process agree on at least this aspect of the purposes of the Sal meeting. 

liberal white groups generally supported the liberation movements’ agendas, especially the MPLA. 
MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 169. 

343 Ignatyev, “Angola on the Threshold of Change,” 15. 

344 MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 169. 



250 


After this consensus, however, the accounts differ in the details they provide on the 
meeting itself and the resultant actions. 

From the left of the political spectrum, Soviet journalist Oleg Ignatyev argues that the 
purpose of Sal was to “turn Angola over to the FNLA.” He cites as his evidence a book 
published in Lisbon in 1975, a newspaper article in Diario cle Luanda on 21 October 
1974, and an unidentified article in the French newspaper, Le Monde. 345 The latter 
source claimed that Spinola had discussed his decolonization plans with President Nixon 
in June 1974 on Lajes, where Nixon had stopped over following a Middle Eastern trip. 

It noted, in part, “In the opinion of the present leaders in Lisbon his secret talks with 
Nixon and President Mobutu were designed to ‘slow down’ decolonisation and chiefly to 
‘marginalise’ Dr. Agostinho Neto’s socialist-oriented MPLA.” 346 

Also from the left, Michael Wolfers and Jane Bergerol’s reflections on the Sal 
meeting, which they say also included Jonas Savimbi and Daniel Chipenda as invitees, 
provides the following assessment. The staunch anti-Communists Spinola and Mobutu 
viewed Roberto, Chipenda, and Savimbi as pliable (unlike the allegedly stubborn MPLA 
leader, Agostinho Neto), and believed they could be convinced to form a governing 
coalition with the white settlers of Angola. Abetted by the withdrawal of Portuguese 
troops from northern Angolan, LNLA combatants and weaponry, supported by the 

345 The book Ignatyev refers to is Angola - Dramatic Hour of Decolonisation by Barciela Santos. 

346 Ignatyev, Secret Weapon in Africa , 104-106. 



251 


Zairian army, would move into northern Angola. At the same time, the Portuguese army 
would hand over its weapons to Jonas Savimbi, operating in the central highlands of 
Angola, to enhance the military capabilities of UNITA. Finally, officers and civil 
servants loyal to Spinola would be appointed to key administrative posts in Angola, 
especially in the MPLA’s stronghold of Luanda. 

These actions would greatly enhance the military power of both the FNLA and 
UNITA, while diluting the strength of both Admiral Coutinho and his favored MPLA in 
the capital and other cities. The net effect would be at least a severe weakening of the 
MPLA’s ability to defend itself in the event of a joint FNLA-UNITA military operation 
against the movement and a lessening of its ability to use its urban-centered power base 
to advance its political agenda . 347 

Historian Fernando Andresen Guimaraes’ analysis of the Sal meeting generally 
supports the Wolfers-Bergerol thesis. He does differ somewhat in his account, however, 
by noting that besides Holden Roberto, Savimbi and Chipenda, Mario de Andrade, the 

040 

leader of the small, third MPLA faction, was also present at the meeting. 

Charles K. Ebinger and John Marcum also support the theory that the Sal meeting was 
designed to eliminate the Neto faction as a political actor in Angola. Ebinger maintains 

347 Michael Wolfers and Jane Bergerol, Angola in the Frontline (London: Zed Press, 1983), 6. 

348 Fernando Andresen Guimaraes, The Origins of the Angolan Civil War: Foreign Intervention and 
Domestic Political Conflict (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 93. 



252 


that Spinola and Mobutu agreed to recognize only the Chipenda and Andrade factions as 
legitimate representatives of the MPLA, and Mobutu agreed to permit the two factions to 
establish headquarters in Kinshasa. 349 Additionally, according to Marcum, the agreed- 
upon plan included the establishment of a twelve-member transitional government in 
Angola consisting of two members from each of the three liberation movements, with 
Chipenda and Andrade as the MPLA representatives, and six other members representing 
non-nationalist Africans and the white settlers. 

Norrie MacQueen’s assessment of the significance of the Sal meeting takes a more 
globalist, Cold War approach. In her scenario, Spinola decided to form an alliance with 
the American-supported Mobutu, who also enjoyed close relations with the People’s 
Republic of China since his visit to that nation in 1973, as a counter to what the 
Portuguese president saw as Soviet intrusion into Angolan affairs via the MPLA. “This 
process of ‘internationalization’ might, in Spinola’ s view, be the most effective obstacle 
to the transfer of power to pro-Soviet Marxists which had already taken place in both 
Guine and Mozambique. The Sal talks may therefore have had more to do with high 

T C | 

diplomacy than low conspiracy.” 


349 Charles K. Ebinger, “External Intervention in Internal War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Angolan 
Civil War, Orbis 20, no. 3 (Fall 1976): 686-687. 

350 John A. Marcum, Exile Politics and Guerrilla Warfare, 251. 

351 MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 168. 



253 


The FNLA Makes the First Move 

Lending credence to the speculative accounts briefly discussed above that Spinola and 
Mobutu had “cut a deal” over Angola’s future, in early October (just after Spinola’s 
forced resignation), Mobutu hosted a meeting aboard the presidential yacht, SS Mobutu , 
anchored in Kinshasa. According to African journalist Godwin Matatu, neither the Neto 

ICO 

MPLA faction nor UNITA were invited. ' Besides Mobutu, the meeting did, however, 
include Holden Roberto and Daniel Chipenda, as well as the Portuguese representative, 

oci 

Spinola’s old friend and former Minister of Defense, Firmino Miguel. 

Again, little is known of the details of this secretive meeting, but within a week, the 
FNLA and Portuguese government had declared a formal ceasefire . 354 Matatu, citing 
unidentified sources, linked the October truce to the Sal meeting, noting that it was “the 
direct result of a secret meeting held in September on the Cape Verde Islands between 


352 Matatu, “Angola: When the Guns Begin to Flower,” 44, 45. 

353 MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 174. There is some debate over just who 
represented the Portuguese government at the Kinshasa talks. Matatu reported that General Fontes Pereira 
de Melo, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Portuguese Armed Forces, was present, but made no mention of 
Fermino Miguel, who had resigned his defense minister position after Spinola’s resignation in late 
September. Matatu, “Angola: When the Guns Begin to Flower,” 44. MacQueen noted that despite 
Miguel’s resignation, “his range of contacts in Zaire was too valuable to permit his complete removal from 
the decolonization process.” MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 200 (footnote 64). 

354 Following the FNLA-Portuguese ceasefire, both the MPLA and UNITA formalized their de facto 
ceasefire arrangements - the Popular Movement in late October inside Angola, and UNITA in early 
November, also inside Angola. Only the FNLA’s ceasefire, then, was formalized outside of the Angolan 
boundaries. 



254 


General Spinola, while he was President of Portugal, and President Mobutu and Holden 
Roberto.” 355 

Sometime just before or immediately following the October meeting and the ceasefire 
announcement, the FNLA reportedly began moving some 4,000 - 5,000 of its trained 
combatants into northeastern Angola, giving some credence to the Wolfers-Bergerol 
theory on the plan decided upon by Spinola and Mobutu at Sal, that is, the Portuguese 
colonial army would permit the FNLA to move freely into northern Angola. 356 Matatu 
reported that sources told him that Holden Roberto had ordered this movement into 
northern Angola as a security measure in support of impending political activities inside 
the country. The same unidentified sources, however, also told him that the troop 
movement was part of a strategy “to strengthen Roberto’s claims to the leadership of a 
provisional government,” and “Holden’s Army is his political ace, and he will not 
hesitate to play it.” 357 


355 Matatu, “Angola: When the Guns Begin to Flower,” 45. 

356 Besides the reporting of Matatu on the movement of the FNLA into northern Angola in October 1974, 
either just before the declaration of the ceasefire or immediately following its announcement, Thomas A. 
Johnson of the New York Times also reported this action. Thomas A. Johnson, “Angola Potential is Termed 
Great,” New York Times , October 23, 1974, 9, and “One Rebel Group Gains in Angola,” New York Times , 
November 24, 1974, 7. 

357 Matatu, “Angola: When the Guns Begin to Flower,” 45. At the time of the October ceasefire and 
continuing well into 1975, analysts and observers of the Angolan crisis and civil war agree that the FNLA 
was the largest and strongest of the military forces of the three liberation movements. Despite this general 
assessment, there has been little consensus on the actual numbers of men under arms for each. Roberto, 
Neto and Savimbi were never very forthcoming on the size of their respective armies. Thus, the actual 
strength of each remained a highly debatable subject among not only the Portuguese, but also most other 
observers of the Angolan situation. Generally speaking, it appears all three movement leaders highly 



255 


The Road to Alvor 

Spinola’s resignation, and the MFA’s simultaneous dismissal of his key supporters 
from the JSN, spelled the end for the general’s intricate, and furtive, neocolonial plan, 
although as noted by MacQueen, his project, including the buildup of forcas vivas and a 
lengthy transitional period, was never “explicitly forsworn” by the new government, now 
led by President da Costa Gomes. 358 General Spinola’s departure provided the 
opportunity for the MFA leadership and the provisional government to revise its 
timetable for Angolan independence, compressing what in August had originally been a 
lengthy three- year process into a much shorter one of only ten months. 

Still, in the fall of 1974 following Spinola’s departure, Lisbon was unable to 
determine with which faction, or factions, of the MPLA to negotiate and how to deal with 
the still divided liberation movements. As a result, the Portuguese government deferred 


exaggerated the size of their military components, no doubt to convince the Portuguese as well as the rival 
movements that they were more powerful than they actually were. At the time of the FNLA -Portuguese 
ceasefire in October 1974, Roberto and his leading political and military commanders claimed 30,000 
trained and armed men, while Portuguese intelligence estimated the FNLA’s operational strength as no 
more than 10,000, which still made it the largest and most potent army, at least on paper. Johnson, “One 
Rebel Group Gains in Angola,” 7. At the same time, sources within the MPLA, according to Johnson, put 
the divided Popular Movement’s total combatants at 10,000, with an additional 8,000 - 10,000 in training. 
However, the Portuguese insisted that the MPLA’s total forces numbered no more than 3,500. Johnson, 
“Angola Rebels Refuse to Form A Joint Front for Truce Talks,” 12. UNIT A, while claiming a little over 
3,000 men, numbered no more than 500, according to Portuguese military sources. Johnson, “one Rebel 
Group Gains in Angola,” 7. From the time of the Portuguese coup in April 1974, however, each movement 
was recruiting heavily in its traditional ethnic homelands. By the time of the Alvor Accord in mid-January 
1975, each movement’s forces were estimated by Portuguese military authorities as: FNLA - 21, 750; 
MPLA - 5,500; MPLA/Chipenda (who was expelled from the MPLA and officially joined with Roberto’s 
FNLA in March 1975) - 2,750; UNITA - 3,000. Marcum, Exile Politics and Guerrilla Warfare, 257 . 

358 MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 170. 



256 


to the efforts of several African nations, under the auspices of the OAU, in resolving the 
two issues. In regard to the first problem, however, it was the MPLA itself that was 
ultimately responsible for settling its own internal divisiveness. In early September 1974, 
just a few days prior to the Spinola-Mobutu meeting in Sal, the three factions - Neto’s 
“presidential rump,” Chipenda’s “Eastern Revolt,” and Mario de Andrade’s small, but 
vocal, “Active Revolt” - met in the Congo (Brazzaville), a long-time MPLA supporter, 
for a unity conference. The three agreed on an arrangement that would leave Neto as the 
president and Chipenda and Joaquin Pinto de Andrade, the brother of Mario de Andrade, 
as co- vice presidents. 

The agreement broke down almost immediately as Chipenda reasserted his claims to 
the presidency. Still, Neto’s historical power within the top echelons of the MPLA 
organization, based largely on his credentials as the long-time leader and his Mbundu 
ethnic roots, finally emerged as the determining factor in the power struggle. Thereafter, 
Chipenda’ s star within the MPLA constellation quickly faded, a situation he clearly 
recognized. In October, at the invitation of President Mobutu, he set up offices in 
Kinshasa. At one time a serious contender for the MPLA leadership, at the end of 
November, he was officially expelled from the movement. He and his sizeable 
contingent of veteran guerrilla fighters then entered into a loose alliance with Holden 
Roberto’s LNLA. As a measure of his decreased status, the Portuguese government 



257 


refused to recognize his contingent as a legitimate party to the Alvor talks and agreement, 
even though Chipenda and his followers were not officially accepted into the FNLA until 
March 1975. 

Chipenda’ s ouster and subsequent defection proved only a temporary setback for the 
MPLA. At a party conference in October, convened in eastern Angola, the movement 
reorganized, an action that strengthened both its internal solidarity and Neto’s leadership. 
As remarked by Norrie MacQueen, “The new-found unity immeasurably increased the 
movement’s political effectiveness and it began a rapid process of recovery and 
consolidation.” The enhanced status of Admiral Coutinho in Luanda also proved a 
boon to the MPLA’s resurgence. In late November, the MFA had dissolved the ruling 
Angolan junta, citing obstructionism and ineffectiveness, and appointed the admiral as 
the high commissioner, greatly increasing his powers and ability to support his preferred 
MPLA. 

The second issue - that of the problem of a still-divided triad of national liberation 
fronts - was never adequately resolved. It was only temporarily painted over through a 
series of bilateral understandings engineered by both Portugal and the OAU, beginning in 
late November 1974 with an FNLA-UNITA agreement brokered by Portuguese Foreign 


359 


MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa, 172-173. 



258 


Minister Mario Soares in Kinshasa. Thereafter, Admiral Coutinho mediated an MPLA- 
UNITA agreement, reached on December 18 in Luso, Angola. 

The most difficult accord was obviously that between the FNLA and MPLA. Prior to 
the conclusion of a bilateral agreement between the two in early January 1975, as 
discussed below, their mutual hostility surfaced frequently and violently, undermining a 
speedy conclusion to the issue. 

In early November, following the conclusion of individual ceasefires with the 
Portuguese, all three movements opened offices in Luanda. As will be discussed in 
Chapter 7, violence between supporters of the Popular Movement and National Front 
soon followed, with UNITA, the weakest of the three militarily, generally maintaining a 
neutral posture in an effort to remain above the fray. As the violence continued into 
December, Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta, acting on behalf of the OAU, was able to 
convince all three leaders to meet with him in Mombasa. Kenyatta’ s preeminent position 
as a leading African statesman and his considerable powers of persuasion had the desired 
effect. 

On 4 January 1975, the FNLA and MPLA finally reached an agreement on forming a 
united front in negotiations with Portugal, completing the series of bilateral agreements 
begun in late November. The next day, the three movements agreed upon a series of 
steps within a transitional government arrangement that would quickly lead to Angolan 



259 


independence. This understanding provided the basis for the ensuing independence 
negotiations in Alvor, Portugal, which took place from 10-15 January. As reported, “The 
three Angolan guerrilla movements signed a joint political agreement... paving the way 
for immediate talks with Lisbon and independence for Portugal’s last African territory, 
possibly within a year. In Lisbon, government sources welcomed the agreement and 
suggested the talks start as early as next Friday in Portugal.” 360 

The Independence Agreement 

The Alvor accords became effective on January 31, 1975. The agreement created a 
tri-partite transitional government to be headed by a Portuguese High Commissioner and 
a three-member Presidential Committee composed of one representative from each of the 
three movements. Among other requirements, the accords called for the establishment of 
a National Defense Committee to oversee the gradual integration of the military forces of 
the three movements and the Portuguese colonial army, with a final composition of 8,000 
combatants each from the MPLA, FNLA and UNITA, and 24,000 from the Portuguese. 
The latter were to conduct a phased withdrawal from the country between the October 3 1 
scheduled general elections for a constituent assembly and February 1976. Independence 
Day was set as 1 1 November. 


360 


‘Divided Angolan Guerrillas Sign Accord,” New York Times , January 6, 1975, 3. 



260 


Interestingly, Article 7 stated that after the general ceasefire, formalized by the 
agreement, “the armed forces of the FNLA, the MPLA and the UNITA shall take up 
positions in the regions and places where they are at present stationed.” 361 This meant, 
among other things, that the movement of several thousand of Holden Roberto’s forces 
into northern Angola in the fall of 1974, perhaps spurred by the agreements secretly 
arranged on Sal Island in September and in Kinshasa in October, became a fait accompli. 
Thus, even as the ink was drying on the Alvor document, Roberto found himself and his 
army in a strong position to move against the capital in force, should he so decide. At the 
least, the mere presence of substantial numbers of FNLA combatants to the north of 
Luanda represented a highly intimidating situation to the resurgent but still militarily 
weakened MPLA, whose main support came from the capital region and its environs. 

Defects in the Agreement 

The Alvor accord was well structured on paper (author’s emphasis) to effect a 

peaceful road to Angolan sovereignty, but it was based on false premises. First, it 

assumed that the Portuguese government, racked by political and economic crises, 

possessed both the resources and will power to oversee its successful implementation, 

including the use of force as necessary. From Lisbon, American Ambassador Carlucci’s 

reporting to the State Department following the January agreement was right on the mark 

361 CIA Records Search Tool (CREST), National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, 
Maryland, Portuguese Ministry of Mass Communication, “Angola: The Independence Agreement,” 3. 



261 


in identifying this key weakness. In March 1975, for example, when violence between 
the MPLA and FNLA escalated, he noted that the Portuguese government’s reaction 
“demonstrates how Portugal neither has the will nor the capability of major military 
intervention to save the precarious peace in Angola. Because of serious political 
instability at home, current developments in Portugal’s ex-colonies are not GOP’s major 
subject of attention.” 362 

The specious assumption was magnified on the ground in Angola where the colonial 
army had dissolved into a dispirited and increasingly undisciplined and impotent force. 363 
It was incapable, if not disinterested in, integrating the armed forces of the three 
movements into its own ranks, as stipulated in the Alvor accord. Further, it was also 
charged with overseeing the demobilization of those forces that exceeded the authorized 
8,000, and evacuating them. Given the estimated numbers of combatants belonging to 


362 American Embassy Lisbon Telegram, “Subject: GOP and Angolan Future,” 281227Z March 1975, p. 1, 
National Security Adviser-Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Portugal - State Department 
Telegrams to SecState - EXDIS (1), Box 11, Gerald R. Ford Library. “GOP” is the State Department’s 
abbreviation for “Government of Portugal.” 

363 Ambassador Carlucci is again instructive, observing, “Even in the improbable event that GOP decided 
to risk troops in major action for sake of civil order in Africa, it may reasonably be assumed that 
Portuguese troops would not obey the order. Indiscipline is a serious and mounting problem in the 
Portuguese army and past experience in Guinea-Bissau has indicated that once the decision to free a colony 
has been taken, troops will not risk their necks for the sake of law and order. In many cases, this 
assumption may even extend to protection of Angolan Whites.” Ibid., p. 2. The ambassador also reported 
that Lisbon, in response to the violence, had issued a “defensive” communique addressing allegations by 
the MPLA that the army had remained “passive in crucial situations.” Ibid. 



262 


each of the three liberation movements, this requirement probably only applied to the 
FNLA, but the colonial army failed, too, in this responsibility. 364 

Secondly, unlike the independence negotiations with FRELIMO and the PAIGC, both 
notable for their controlled protocol and disciplined secrecy, the Angolan talks, from the 
time of Savimbi’s de facto ceasefire in June 1974, were disorderly and unconstrained by 
diplomatic niceties. The leaders of each movement, especially the FNLA and MPLA, 
frequently voiced their self-serving ideas about how the Portuguese should go about the 
decolonization process. Just as frequently, they aired their opinions on their own 
importance to that process and threatened to undermine it if their personal conditions 
were not met. On 8 October, for example, Daniel Chipenda and Holden Roberto warned 
Admiral Coutinho and the Angolan ruling junta that they would resume fighting if Lisbon 
recognized only the Neto-led MPLA. In late November, Agostinho Neto made it known 
publicly that his movement would not participate in any coalition government unless the 
MPLA was allocated 60-70 percent of the governmental positions. 365 

The atmosphere created by the constant recriminations, accusations and threats was 
not conducive, indeed was extremely counterproductive, to the cooperation needed to 


364 As previously noted, John Marcum, citing Portuguese military authorities, estimated the size of each 
movement’s armed forces as: FNLA - 21, 750; MPLA - 5,500; MPLA/Chipenda faction (soon to join the 
FNLA) - 2,750; UNITA - 3,000. Marcum, The Angolan Revolution, vol. II, 257 . 

365 “Angola: Violence in Luanda,” November 23, 1974, World News Digest: Facts on File [Database on- 
line]; available on http://www.2facts.com. 



263 


negotiate and carry out the Alvor agreement. Eventually, in early 1975, as we shall see in 
Chapter 7, the liberation movements translated their antagonistic words into belligerent 
actions. 

Thirdly, Portugal assumed that, again like the negotiations with Guinea-Bissau and 
Mozambique, there would be minimal, if any, outside interference in the decolonization 
process. They also expected that the international community, especially the United 
States and the Soviet Union, would encourage and back its efforts to peacefully resolve 
the Angolan independence issue. Indeed, for at least the first five months after Alvor, the 
Soviet Union very vocally supported the independence process, including the 
representation of all three movements in the transitional government. As Arthur Jay 
Klinghoffer has noted in his study of Soviet involvement in the Angolan civil war, the 
Kremlin “recognized the MPLA as the leading force in the national liberation movement 
but it wanted to avoid bloodshed and therefore supported the sharing of power worked 
out at Alvor. It always called for unity between the three movements and for Portuguese 
cooperation with the Transitional Government.” 366 The author cites various Soviet 


366 Arthur Jay Klinghoffer, The Angolan War: A Study in Soviet Policy in the Third World (Boulder: 
Westview Press, 1980), 17. Interestingly, the Soviet Union was not alone in recognizing the prominence of 
the MPLA. John Stockwell, who headed the CIA’s task force on Angola, asserts that the American Consul 
General in Luanda, Tom Killoran, “believed the MPLA was best qualified to run Angola and that its 
leaders sincerely wanted a peaceful relationship with the United States. Swish [Killoran] had worked with 
all three movements and found the MPLA better organized and easier for him to see. John Stockwell, In 
Search of Enemies, 63-64. Robert Hultslander, the CIA station chief in Luanda from July 1975 until the 
station’s closure, along with the American embassy, in November 1975, confirms Stockwell’s assessment 



264 


media reports as evidence of the Kremlin’s support for the coalition government, 
including Pravda and Radio Moscow in French to Africa. 

To confirm Klinghoffer’s assessment, I reviewed various 1975 issues of The Current 
Digest of the Soviet Press. I found ample evidence of Soviet public support for the Alvor 
accords, as well as for the 21 June 1975 Nakuru agreement, an eleventh-hour OAU 
attempt to reconcile the three nationalists movements along the same lines as the Alvor 
agreement. Fyodor Tarasov, writing for Pravda in April 1975, for example, referred to 
all three liberation groups as “champions of independence,” and lauded their efforts “to 
overcome the crisis thrust upon them.” 367 

In contrast, as I will explain in the following chapters, especially Chapter 7, Henry 
Kissinger was bleakly pessimistic about the prospects for a peaceful road to Angolan 
independence. More importantly, as previously mentioned, only one week after the 
signing of the Alvor Accords, the Forty Committee, chaired by Kissinger in his role as 


of Killoran’s high regard (and his own for that matter) for the MPLA. “I came to share [U.S. embassy 
Consul General Tom] Killoran’s assessment that the MPLA was the best qualified movement to govern 
Angola... Despite the uncontested communist background of many of the MPLA’s leaders, they were more 
effective, better educated, better trained and better motivated. The rank and file also were better 
motivated. . .Portuguese Angolans overwhelmingly supported the MPLA. Unfortunately, the CIA’s 
association with the FNLA and UNITA tainted its analysis... No one wanted to believe the Consulate’s 
reporting, and Killoran’s courageous and accurate analysis was ignored.” Robert W. Hultslander, 
“Interview with Robert W. Hultslander, Former CIA Station Chief in Luanda, Angola,” interview by Piero 
Gleijeses, correspondence, 1998 [Database on-line]; available at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv. 

367 Fyodor Tarasov, “The Colonialist Won’t Quit,” Pravda, April 24, 1975, 5. Along these same lines, see 
S. Kulik, “Angola’s Decolonization is Threatened,” Pravda, June 12, 1975, 5, and V. Lashkul, “The Goal is 
Decolonization,” Izvestia, June 24, 1975, 3. On Soviet support for the efforts of the three liberations 
movements to come together at Nakuru, see Victor Sidenko, “The Nakuru Agreement,” New Times 
(Moscow), no. 26 (June 1975): 16. 



265 

National Security Adviser, authorized $300,000 in “politically earmarked” funding for 
Holden Roberto. Various Ford Administration spokespersons often described the amount 
as “small” or “paltry” and of no consequence. This was simply not true. 

As I discuss in detail in Chapter 7, shortly after the January allocation, an emboldened 
Holden Roberto moved quickly and violently to answer the question as to who would 
govern an independent Angola. Up to this point, as former CIA Angolan Task Force 
director John Stockwell tells us, both the MPLA and UNITA had acted in good faith in 
their observance of the Alvor agreement. After the FNLA’s bold attacks against the 
MPLA, Stockwell somewhat pessimistically opined, “The fate of Angola was then sealed 
in blood. The issue could only be decided by violence.” 

Conclusion 

Unlike the decolonization processes in both Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, which 
were both reasonably quick and smooth, Angola’s path to independence was marked by 
considerable uncertainties, animosity and the politics of favoritism. As I have explained, 
the colony became a victim of Portugal’s own internal political factionalism. Moreover, 
the Alvor accords’ major assumptions, especially Lisbon’s belief that, like its other 
African colonies, Angola’s decolonization would take place without external 
interference, were seriously flawed. 

368 Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 68. 



266 


Because of Angola’s internal circumstances, most notably the inter-liberation 
movement struggle for supremacy, its transition period from colony to sovereign nation 
was especially vulnerable to the hegemonic designs and fears of its southern African 
neighbors, particularly those of Zaire and the Republic of South Africa. In the following 
chapters, especially Chapter 6, 1 will discuss both the high-level of interest and 
involvement in Angola of both of these nations on behalf of their chosen clients. 369 Their 
actions contributed to the rapidly escalating violence and helped to undermine Portugal’s 
efforts, however feeble, to carry out the provisions of the independence agreement and to 
avoid a violent path to sovereignty. 


369 Angola’s independence presented a much different scenario to the Republic of South Africa (RSA) than 
that of Mozambique, which was especially dependent on South Africa for its economic livelihood. Perhaps 
one could better describe their relationship as interdependence. The Republic depended on Mozambique 
for 25 percent of its mining labor force and relied upon its railroads, which connected South Africa to the 
ports of Maputo and Beira in Mozambique, to alleviate the congestion in the RSA’s own seaports. 

Maxwell, “The Legacy of Decolonization,” 18, and “Portugal, Africa and the Future,” Africa, no. 35 
f July 1974): 13. The two neighbors were thus enmeshed in a symbiotic relationship, although post-colonial 
Mozambique’s harsh public criticism of the Republic and its apartheid policies belied the closeness of their 
mutually beneficial dependency. Even governance by a left-leaning FRELIMO could not alter this reality. 
As noted by Kenneth Maxwell, “An independent Mozambique, even if ruled by a Marxist government, 
would be extremely vulnerable to South Africa and economically dependent on the goodwill of Pretoria.” 
Maxwell, “The Legacy of Decolonization,” 18. The FRELIMO government, unlike an MPLA one in 
Angola, did not constitute a viable threat to the South African republic considering the substantial overt 
economic and subtle political linkages between Pretoria and Maputo. Mark Chona, a close adviser to 
President Kaunda of Zambia, perhaps best expressed this latter linkage. In late 1975, he told the American 
ambassador in Lusaka, Zambia, that Mozambique’s Foreign Minister Chissano could afford to take a public 
stance against the Republic of South Africa “because of private understandings it has with SAG.” Chissano 
admitted, “...that Mozambique virtually has diplomatic relations with SAG and wanted to continue this 
close relationship for economic and political reasons.” American Embassy Lusaka Telegram 2491, 
221259Z December 1975, p. 1, National Security Adviser -President Country Files for Africa, Zambia - 
State Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (1), Box 8, Gerald R. Ford Library. SAG refers to the 
South African Government. 



267 


Given these Angolan and regional realities, the unfolding, chaotic situation in Angola 
was also rife with the potential for super-power involvement. This potential was 
eventually realized, with both American and Soviet intervention. However, as we shall 
see in the following chapters, the timing and nature of those interventions are still 
subjects of considerable debate. 

The Ford Administration admitted to American involvement in the Angolan storm, but 
only after the American media began to sniff out the details in the fall of 1975. Its 
official account alleges that the United States decided to act only after massive Soviet 
military support for the MPLA in early 1975. Asa result of this assistance, 
administration spokespersons contended that the Popular Movement initiated a military 
confrontation with the FNLA in an attempt to weaken, if not destroy, its major military 
and political opponent and in the process undermined the Alvor accord. I will provide a 
detailed discussion of the official story of American involvement in Angola, as told by 
the president and his top foreign policy officials, in Chapter 5. In Chapters 6 and 7, 1 will 
analyze their narrative to determine its accuracy and truthfulness. 

In what was to become Portugal’s own “decent interval,” from the early spring of 
1975 onward, the situation in Angola would spiral out of control as inter- movement 
violence escalated, fueled by an increasing involvement by outside powers, both regional 



268 


^70 

and international. The Alvor agreement set the Angolan decolonization process in 
motion, but, as Godwin Matatu prophesized, it would prove to be “laden with many 
problems.” 


370 1 do not exaggerate when I use the term “decent interval” to describe Lisbon’s desire to depart Angola as 
quickly and painlessly as possible. Ambassador Carlucci, for example, noted “In GOP view both public 
and private, January 1975 Alvor Accord outlining framework for Angolan future marked clearcut break in 
Portugal’s responsibility and obligations in ex-colony.” American Embassy Lisbon Telegram, “Subject: 
GOP and Angolan Future,” 281227Z March 1975, p. 1. Further, in the “Response to NSSM 224: United 
States Policy Toward Angola,” the authoring Interdepartmental Group’s consensus was, “The major 
Portuguese Government objective in Angola is to get out - with honor if possible, but in any case to get 
out.” National Security Council Interdepartmental Group for Africa, “Response to NSSM 224: United 
States Policy Toward Angola,” June 13, 1975, p. 20 [database on-line]; available from Digital National 
Security Archive. 



269 


CHAPTER 5 

AMERICAN INTERVENTION IN ANGOLA: THE OFFICIAL MYTHOLOGY 

“Let there be no mistake about it - the culprits in the tragedy that 
is now unfolding in Angola are the Soviet Union and its client state, 

Cuba. ” 

07 1 

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger 

On January 15, 1975, representatives of the Portuguese government and Angola’s 
three liberation movements, meeting in southern Portugal, agreed to a cooperative road to 
independence. The Alvor accords, as the agreement came to be known, stipulated that a 
coalition, quad-partite government would oversee a series of delineated responsibilities 
and duties required to bring about elections by October 31 and full independence on 
November 11. The hoped-for peaceful decolonization process broke down almost 
immediately. The long-standing animosities among the three liberation groups, 
especially those between the MPLA and FNLA, rapidly escalated into military violence, 
beginning shortly after the transitional government took power on January 31. Over the 
next ten months, the battle for Angola would pit Agostinho Neto’s MPLA against a 
loosely forged union between Holden Roberto’s FNLA and Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA. 

External intervention fueled the fratricidal conflict. By late July, as the struggle grew 
into an all-out civil war, no fewer than four extra-continental nations - the United States, 


371 Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Involvement in Civil War in Angola: Hearing 
before the Subcommittee on African Affairs, 94 th Cong., 2 nd sess., January 29, 1976, 8. Hereafter referred to 
as Angola. 



270 


the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China - not to mention regional actors, were involved in the 
Angolan conflict on one side or the other. Their actions brought the Cold War to sub- 
Sahara Africa for the first time since the Congo Crisis of the early 1960s. 

The Ford Administration claimed that it was the Soviet Union, supported by its Cuban 
proxies, which intervened first, on behalf of its long-time client, the MPLA. Official 
spokesmen contended that the first Soviet arms shipments to the Popular Movement, in 
the fall of 1974, followed by the arrival of still more Soviet weapons and Cuban advisers 
the following spring, set off a chain reaction that destroyed the January agreement. As 
Kissinger testified in late January 1976, it was no coincidence that the MPLA began 
attacking the other two movements in March 1975 following the arrival of large 
shipments of Soviet arms. “With this kind of encouragement, the MPLA had little 
incentive to fulfill the terms of the Alvor accord which would have prevented it from 

077 

dominating any future coalition government.” 

This chapter presents the Ford Administration’s version of the course of events in 
Angola that led to the American decision, on July 18, to intervene on behalf of the anti- 
MPLA coalition. The reader should keep in mind that my recounting of the official 
narrative is based on what Ford Administration officials have publicly told us about the 
American intervention in Angola. They revealed their for-the-record account of the 

372 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 9. 



271 


American involvement in various forums, including testimony at congressional hearings, 
press conferences, and in their own memoirs, such as those of President Ford and Henry 
Kissinger. As we shall see later, however, their account obscured the real nature of the 
American covert operation and misrepresented the timelines of the intervention. 
Additionally, to further justify the American action as a response to Soviet- supported 
aggression, Washington exaggerated the extent of Moscow’s support to the MPLA up to 
President Ford’s July decision, while distorting the timelines of the Soviet Union’s 
involvement. 

The first part of the discussion deals with what the Ford Administration’s foreign 
policy experts contended was really at stake in Angola. It addresses the first question that 
I posed in the introduction to this study. Briefly, “Why did the United States become 
involved in Angola when it had previously ignored Portugal’s colonies?” The second 
part of this chapter takes up the administration’s stance on the chronology of foreign 
intervention, especially that of the United States and the Soviet Union and Cuba. This 
part of my discussion relates to the second question I posed earlier: “Who did what, and 
when?” 

Senator Clark Weighs in on the Angolan Issue 

In November 1975, when funds for the CIA-engineered covert operation in Angola 
ran out - an amount reported as nearly $32 million by William Nelson, the CIA’s Deputy 



272 

Director, in a closed hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in early 
November - the Ford Administration asked for an additional $9 million in an emergency 
supplemental appropriation. The details of the “closed hearing” were quickly leaked to 
the press. The Tunney Amendment (to the FY76 Defense Appropriations Bill), passed 
overwhelmingly by both the Senate and the House of Representatives on 19 December 
1975 and 27 January 1976, respectively, denied this request by barring additional funding 
to the pro-Westem factions in Angola. 

In late November 1975, President Ford requested yet an additional $28 million, 
shortly before he and Kissinger embarked on a trip to China and Indonesia. The amount 
was based upon the recommendations of the CIA’s task force on Angola and the Forty 
Committee, although Henry Kissinger has written that he believed that at least $60 
million in additional funding was required. President Ford, however, listened to his 
congressional advisers in the White House and decided upon the lower sum. This 
request prompted Senator Clark’s early 1976 hearings on the American involvement in 


373 See, for example, Leslie H. Gelb, “U.S. Aides Tell Senators of Arms Aid to Angolans,” New York 
Times, November 7, 1975, 3, and Walter Pincus, “CIA Aid in Angola Defended,” Washington Post, 
November 8, 1975, 7. 

374 Kissinger Years of Renewal, 826. 



273 


Angola and led to the passage of his amendment to the Foreign Aid Bill in February 
1976. 375 

In his opening remarks on January 29, the senator raised three issues that he 
considered critical to determining the full story of American involvement in the Angolan 
Civil War. First, what was at stake for the United States if the Soviet-backed faction 
proved victorious in the struggle? Secondly, how accurate was the administration’s 
argument that the United States’ involvement was a justifiable reaction to a Soviet 
initiative designed to militarily install the pro-Soviet MPLA in power, even though it was 
no more than a minority political movement? Finally, because the administration had 
requested another $28 million in funding for the FNLA and UNITA, what would the 
additional authorization accomplish, given the administration’s argument that the Soviet 
Union had already provided $200 million to the MPLA, as well as 400 advisers, and the 
Cubans had sent 11,000 troops? 376 

In expanding upon the first issue - what was at stake for the United States in Angola - 
the Senator first opined that it was not unreasonable to question whether the Soviet 


375 The effect of the Clark Amendment was to cut off all covert assistance to the anti-MPLA coalition. 
Unlike the Tunney Amendment, which banned additional funding for the then on-going covert operation 
via the 1976 Defense Appropriation Bill, Senator Clark’s amendment had long-term ramifications - it made 
the ban permanent until its repeal during the Reagan Administration. For an in-depth discussion of both the 
Tunney and Clark Amendments, see Robert David Johnson, “The Unintended Consequences of 
Congressional Reform: The Clark and Tunney Amendments and U.S. Policy toward Angola," Diplomatic 
History 27, no. 2 (April 2003): 215-243. 

376 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola , January 29, 1976, 1-3. 



274 


Union, given its track record in Africa, would gain a permanent foothold in southern 
Africa if the MPLA won the civil war. To underscore his point, the senator cited the 
recent case of the downturn in Soviet relations with Mozambique in which the newly 
independent nation had “denied the Soviet Union base privileges and publicly accused it 
of pushing too hard, in spite of generous Soviet assistance in Mozambique’s liberation 

'inn 

struggle over the last decade.” Further, since administration spokesperson, both in 
previous testimony and public statements, had emphasized that American economic and 
strategic interests in Angola were not significant and that the Angolan conflict was not 

378 

ideological, what then was at risk if the American-backed factions were to lose? 


378 Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, William E. Schaufele, Jr., who appeared before Senator 
Clark’s hearings on February 6, had previously testified before the House Committee on International 
Relations on 26 January, just prior to the House vote on the Tunney Amendment. Schaufele remarked that 
neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union had significant interests in Angola. “The Soviets have even less vital 
interests at stake in distant Angola than we do and our direct interest there is minimal.” Congress, House of 
Representatives, Committee on International Relations, United States Policy on Angola: Hearing before 
the Committee on International Relations, 94 th Cong., 2 nd sess., January 20, 1976, 6. Additionally, various 
State Department and CIA estimates prior to President Ford’s 18 July decision to support both the FNFA 
and UNITA emphasized that the United States had important but not vital interests in Angola. They were 
largely related to American economic interests, which amounted to $400 million, of which Gulf Oil’s 
investment (in the Cabindan enclave) comprised $300 million. The absence of vital American interests in 
Angola is discussed in several other documents. See for example, “Talking Points for Secretary Kissinger, 
National Security Council Meeting on Angola,” June 27, 1975, p. 1, National Security Adviser, National 
Security Council Meeting File, 1974-1977, NSC Meeting, June 27, 1975, Box 2, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary, 
and “Minutes, Meeting of the National Security Council (To Review Options for United States Policy 
toward Angola),” June 27, 1975, National Security Adviser, National Security Meeting File, 1974-1977, 
NSC Meeting, June 27, 1975, Box 2, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary. Although the United States had strategic 
interests in Angola, derived in part from its location along the sea- and airlines of communication between 
the U.S. and the Indian Ocean, as late as June 14, 1975, the State Department still termed such interests as 
“marginal.” “Memorandum for Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, Subject: Issues Paper on Angola,” 
June 14, 1975, p. 2. From an ideological perspective, administration spokespersons repeatedly asserted that 



275 


Elaborating upon the second issue - that the United States was reacting to a Soviet 
initiative - Senator Clark noted that the administration’s argument was questionable since 
it was then known (due to the leak of the Pike Committee investigation and other leaks to 
the media) that the Forty Committee had authorized $300,000 to the FNLA in January 
1975, two months before the significant escalation of Soviet arms support in March 1975. 
The chairman continued, remarking that President Mobutu had been substantially 
supporting the FNFA for some time and “might well have been increasing his assistance 
in anticipation of independence as well.” He finished his discussion of the issue for the 
time being by commenting, “I conclude that trying to determine who did what first in 
support of liberation movements in Angola is at least as difficult as answering which 
came first, the chicken or the egg.” 


the United States was not opposed to the Marxist MPLA, per se, noting the American benign acceptance of 
FRELIMO in Mozambique and the PAIGC in Guinea-Bissau. Rather, it was the MPLA’s attempt, with the 
military assistance of the Soviet Union and Cuba, to inflict its dominion over Angola that was the issue. As 
noted by Schaufele in his January 26 testimony, “I wish to underline what I have said on many occasions, 
that we are not hostile to the MPLA. Before it decided to try to impose itself on Angola with the aid of 
Soviet and Cuban bayonets, our diplomatic officers in Luanda maintained good and close relations with 
leaders of the MPLA.” House of Representatives, Committee on International Relations, United States 
Policy on Angola, 2. This statement is interesting in that it contrasts with Kissinger’s later writings on 
Angola in which he remarked, incorrectly it would seem, that the United States had no official 
representation in Angola and, thus, was only occasionally informed about the activities of Angola’s three 
liberation movements. Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 794-795. Also, as Senator Clark pointed out, the PRC 
and Soviet Union, both Communist nations, found themselves on opposite sides of the fence in the Angolan 
conflict. Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 2. In sum, from an 
economic, strategic, or ideological viewpoint, American interests in Angola were not vital, nor even very 
important. 

379 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 3. 

380 Ibid. 



276 

Senator Clark then addressed the final issue concerning the impact of the requested 
$28 million. The administration argued the increased assistance was intended to create a 
local military balance of power, thereby improving the chances that negotiations leading 
to a coalition government would take place among the three movements. If the 
administration’s estimates were accurate on the amounts of aid and advisers already 
provided by the Soviet Union and the number of Cuban combatants deployed in Angola, 
then, as the senator pointed out, “It is unlikely that these levels of assistance can be 
‘balanced’ by another $9 million in the defense appropriation or the $28 million more 
which has been requested, or even another $50 million or $100 million. How can more 
dollars offset troops and technical advisers?” 381 

Despite Senator Clark’s suspicions that the administration had not been telling the full 
truth about American covert involvement in Angola - a skepticism that had reached a 
full-blown mistrust after his visit to southern Africa during the congressional recess of 
the previous summer - President Ford and his foreign policy advisers continued to 
articulate and defend their position on the reason for the American intervention and the 
events which had compelled the timing and nature of the United States’ actions. 


381 Ibid. 

382 Kissinger attributed Senator Clark’s mistrust to the changed congressional environment brought about 
by the 1974 “McGovernite landslide.” This new congress, Kissinger wrote, “was violently opposed to 
intervention abroad, especially in the developing world, ever suspicious of the CIA, deeply hostile to covert 
operations, and distrustful of the veracity of the executive branch.” Kissinger especially singled out the 



277 


The Stakes: American Credibility and International Equilibrium 

The Ford Administration’s basic answer to Senator Clark’s question of why the 

United States involved itself in the Angolan imbroglio always boiled down to the issue of 

American willingness and determination to respond to what officials alleged was Soviet- 

provoked aggression. Such American action, they contended, was necessary, first, to 

send a strong signal to all that the United States would not acquiesce in such behavior. 

Secondly, a demonstration of American resolve in countering Soviet attempts to gain a 

geostrategic advantage would promote global stability by foreclosing Soviet attempts to 

tilt the international balance in its favor. As Kissinger told the senator: 

Peace requires a sense of security which depends upon some form of 
equilibrium. That equilibrium is impossible unless the United States remains 
both strong and determined to use its strength when required. . .Our deepest 
concern is for global stability. If the United States is seen to emasculate itself in 
the face of massive, unprecedented Soviet and Cuban intervention, what will be 
the perception of leaders around the world as they make decisions concerning 


African Subcommittee’s Chairman, Senator Clark, because he had received more briefings on the 
American operation in Angola than any other senator and had posed no objections. However, once the 
news media began leaking details of the American involvement, especially starting in early November, 
Senator Clark “felt at liberty to talk about Angola. . .as if he had just learned of the Angolan civil war from 
news accounts.” Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 827, 826. The waters of Senator Clark’s mistrust ran much 
deeper than Kissinger’s analysis. John Stockwell’s account of the senator’s African sojourn in August, in 
which he visited Zaire, Zambia, and Tanzania, speaking to the heads of state in those three nations as well 
as to all three liberation movement leaders and the South African foreign minister, reveals that at least 
Mobutu and Roberto (and probably Savimbi also) were coached on what to say to Clark who, they were 
told, had been briefed in only very general terms about the covert program. Thus sworn to secrecy, Clark 
was not at liberty to discuss the program, and Mobutu and Roberto were “encouraged to promote their 
interests in Angola, confident that Senator Clark could not turn the conversation to the CIA program.” 
Stockwell remarked that the senator returned from his trip, skeptical of both the briefings he had received 
in Washington and of the covert program in Angola. Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 227-229. On the 
same subject, see also Dick Clark, “Frustration,” New York Times, January 29, 1976, 32. 



278 


their future security... And what conclusion will an unopposed superpower 

TOO 

draw when the next opportunity for intervention beckons? 

Simply stated, if the United States not only talked the talk, but also, and most 
importantly, walked the walk, it would both deter adversaries from taking actions 
inimical to American interests and reassure allies and friends of Washington’s 
commitment to their security. 

As Robert McMahon has argued, Washington’s preoccupation with America’s 
credibility, or at least others’ perceptions of that credibility - elevated the notion into a 
major determinant in its Cold War decision making. The fixation on this largely 
psychological dimension of power, then, was long-lived and obviously predated the 
Angolan crisis. However, Angola came on the heels of the humiliating denouement of 
the American effort in Southeast Asia. As a result of that defeat, both President Ford and 
Henry Kissinger believed that the nation’s credibility, and hence its global clout, had 
suffered a severe blow. 

This perception amplified the administration’s sense of urgency, in the case of 
Angola, to act decisively in what it claimed was a response to Soviet adventurism in an 
area where Moscow had no traditional interests. A brief overview of the immediate 
history leading up the American decision to intervene in Angola follows. It highlights 

383 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola , January 29, 1976, 6, 7, 8. 

384 McMahon, “Credibility and World Power,” 457. 



279 


the reasons for the administration’s preoccupation with restoring American credibility in 
the wake of Vietnam, and why the White House elevated an essentially tribal conflict in a 

QOC 

far-off West African nation to “a matter of urgent concern,” as Kissinger termed it. 

Vietnam and American Credibility 

In late 1973, when Henry Kissinger mused that since 1969 he and President Nixon had 
moved international conditions and alignments in a direction favorable to American 
interests, he could not have possibly foreseen that in a little over a year the satisfactory 
trends would be shattered by a series of events in Southeast Asia. From the White House 
perspective, the Communist victory in South Vietnam in the spring of 1975, as well as 
the victory of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia - the sideshow to the main event next door 
- represented a monumental international crises de confidence in American resolve, 
prestige, and competence. 

The swift and catastrophic end to the American-supported Phnom Penh and Saigon 
governments of Lon Nol and Nguyen Van Thieu, respectively, called into question the 
country’s ability to effectively counter what the Ford Administration perceived as 
Communism on an aggressive march against the free world, beginning first in Southeast 
Asia as the fallen Cambodian and South Vietnamese dominoes suggested. President Ford 
recalled those somber days: 

385 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 6. 



280 


In the wake of our humiliating retreat from Cambodia and 
South Vietnam in the spring of 1975, our allies around the 
world began to question our resolve. The British were con- 
cerned. So, too, were the French. Our friends in Asia were 
equally upset. In the Middle East, the Israelis began to wonder 
whether the U.S. would stand by them in the event of war. As 
long as I was President, I decided, the U.S. would not abandon 
its commitments overseas. We would not permit our setbacks 
to become a license for others to fish in troubled waters. Rhetoric 
alone, I knew, would not persuade anyone that America would 
stand firm. They would have to see proof of our resolve. 386 


The Ford Administration had made a last-ditch effort to try to save the two 
governments and demonstrate that the United States would honor its commitments. At 
the end of January 1975, the president requested $222 million in supplemental military 
aid for Cambodia, arguing to Congress that it would somehow “facilitate an early 
negotiated settlement.” At the same time, the administration requested an additional 
$300 million (later, in early April, the sum was raised to $722 million) to shore up the 
Saigon government and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Kissinger and 
Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger argued that the purpose was to keep both 
governments from collapsing and to show that American resolve and support for its allies 
had not weakened. As quoted by Jussi Hanhimaki, Kissinger remarked, “We maintain 


Gerald R. Ford, A Time to Heal (Harper & Row, Publishers, 1979), 275. 
387 Isaacson, Kissinger, 638. 



281 


that this will hurt our credibility worldwide. Our allies must know that we will stand by 
them and by any agreements we have with them. It will hurt our international 

TOO 

negotiating power, if we do not stand in South Vietnam.” 

President Ford and Vice President Rockefeller both shared Kissinger’s viewpoint on 
the issue of American credibility and its relationship to the state of the international 
environment. Rockefeller noted that the aid “is a necessity for our global relationships,” 
and Ford argued that eventually it would be impossible to effectively continue the 
triangular diplomatic strategy with the Soviets and Chinese if the United States was seen 

389 

as backing out of its commitments. 

The American Congress, attempting to reassert its own prerogatives in foreign policy 
after decades of deferring to the “imperial presidency,” was in no mood to fund continued 
fighting in Southeast Asia, despite President Ford’s argument that American credibility 
would significantly suffer if the nation deserted its allies. Isaacson tells us that Kissinger 
drafted the president’s appeal to Congress, although Ford toned down some of 
Kissinger’s more belligerent rhetoric while maintaining his words on credibility. “The 
‘credibility’ argument that he had used at the beginning of the Nixon administration was 
the one he stressed at the end. In the message to Congress. . .this argument was put 
succinctly: ‘U.S. unwillingness to provide adequate assistance to our allies fighting for 


388 

389 


Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect, 388. 
Ibid. 



282 


their lives would seriously affect our credibility throughout the world as an ally. And this 
credibility is essential to our security.’” Despite President Ford’s petition, Congress 
rejected the administration’s argument and its request, appropriating funds only to 
evacuate Americans and a limited number of Cambodians and South Vietnamese. 390 

Soon after the congressional defeat, in May 1975, Ford and Kissinger were presented 
with an opportunity to quickly reassert American prowess and credibility in the wake of 
the Cambodian and South Vietnamese disasters and to demonstrate that 
America was not a helpless giant, as one West German newspaper labeled the United 
States. After the Cambodians seized the American merchantman, S.S. Mayaguez, in 
international waters off their coast, the president and all his men decided that a quick and 
forceful response was required to rescue the captive mariners. Probably more 
importantly, as Ford noted, “decisive action would reassure our allies and bluntly warn 
our adversaries that the U.S. was not a helpless giant.” 392 

Within three days, the crew of thirty-nine was rescued and the ship recovered, but in 
the process, forty-one American Marines were killed and another fifty wounded. The 


390 Isaacson, Kissinger , 642. Isaacson notes that after President Ford’s personal appeal before Congress for 
more funding, “there was not one clap of applause - from either side of the aisle.” Ibid., 643. 

391 President Ford wrote that an editorial in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which appeared shortly 
after the fall of Saigon in April 1975, had carried the headline, “America - A Helpless Giant.” Ford, A 
Time to Heal, 275. 

392 Ibid., 282. 

393 Ibid., 284. The total number of Killed- and Wounded-in-Action includes those Marines lost in three 
helicopter crashes prior to the assault of Koh Tang Island where the Cambodians had anchored the 



283 


president and his principal advisers during the “quasi-crisis” - Kissinger, Defense 
Secretary Schlesinger and Vice President Rockefeller - all viewed the operation as a 
great success, not only because the United States had rescued the crew, but also because 
of its symbolic significance. President Ford, according to Kissinger biographer, Walter 
Isaacson, saw the Mayaguez “victory” as not only worthwhile, but as his most important 
foreign policy decision, having remarked, “ Mayaguez provided us with a shot in the arm 
as a nation when we really needed it. It convinced some of our adversaries we were not a 
paper tiger .” 394 Congress also largely praised the president’s decisive actions, and the 
public, suffering from the first symptoms of the Vietnam malaise, rewarded the president 

TQC 

with high marks in the opinion polls - a boost to Ford’s personal credibility. 


Mayaguez after her capture. By the time of the assault, the crew had been removed, but they were 
subsequently spotted and rescued by the U.S.S. Wilson, a Navy destroyer. 

394 Isaacson, Kissinger, 65 1 . The rescue of the crew, despite the high number of casualties, not only perked 
up the president’s popularity with the public, but also, according to Ford, restored Americans’ faith in their 
country. Ford, A Time to Heal, 284. 

395 President Ford’s linking of the perceived foreign policy success of the Mayaguez operation to his 
presidential popularity reveals yet another dynamic of the credibility phenomenon - the domestic 
dimension. Thomas Noer discusses this aspect of credibility in his article, “International Credibility and 
Political Survival: The Ford Administration’s Intervention in Angola,’’ Presidential Studies Quarterly, 
XXIII, no. 4 (Fall 1993): passim. He argues that Ford believed he needed to have a foreign policy victory 
to enhance his political prestige at home, thereby increasing his chances for re-gaining the presidency in the 
November 1976 election. Kissinger needed a foreign policy “win” to keep Ford in the White House so that 
he could continue his role as the leading American foreign policy architect. Journalist Anthony Lewis also 
discussed the link between presidential popularity and the public’s perception of his toughness in the global 
arena, specifically linking it to Angola. Lewis argued that President Ford and Kissinger could use their 
decisions and actions in the Angolan conflict to demonstrate that they were not soft on Communism and to 
lay the blame for the Soviet-supported MPLA victory squarely at the feet of the Democratic Congress. 
Moreover, they could use the same argument to rebut Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s 
similar criticism. “‘Who lost Angola?’ There is a good campaign cry. Mr. Ford came close to it when he 
denounced Congress last week for barring covert intervention in Angola. ‘They’ve lost their guts,’ he said. 



284 


Washington identified the issue of American credibility as a vital national interest. 
Thus, in justifying its intervention in Angola, the Ford Administration contended that it 
was the United States’ “historic responsibility” as the leader of the free world, to act to 
preserve the global balance when the actions of others threatened that equilibrium. 
Moreover, if the United States failed to act, decisively and resolutely, the nation would be 
sending the wrong signal because, as Kissinger observed, “A challenge not met today 
will tempt far more dangerous crises tomorrow .” 396 

Angola and American Credibility 

Unlike the Mayaguez incident, the building crisis in Angola involved the Soviet Union 
and raised the stakes to a much higher level. The administration’s point man on the 
Angola-American credibility nexus was naturally Kissinger. His real-politik, global 
perspective, while not shared by all in the State Department, especially those in the 
African Bureau, eventually won the day - and, more importantly, the president’s 
agreement - on what the United States needed to do in Angola given the stakes as he saw 
them. 

Those stakes, as he was quick to point out, involved much more than Angola. Rather, 
as he told Senator Clark on several occasions, they involved the global consequences if 


And: ‘I think they’ll live to regret it.’” Anthony Lewis, “The Politics of Patriotism,” New York Times, 
February 16, 1976, 15. 

396 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 7. 



285 


the United States failed to act. Kissinger apparently agreed with the senator that the 
Soviet Union was unlikely to gain a foothold in Angola, given its record of failures 
elsewhere in Africa, remarking, “You’re right from an African point of view.” However, 
referring to the Russians, he pronounced, “The point is that if they can act with impunity 
8,000 miles from their own borders, as they’ve done in Angola, they’ll do it all over the 
globe.” Angola’s significance, then, reached far beyond its borders, its southern 
African regional context, and its contemporary time frame. For Kissinger, the global 
architect, and no doubt for the American president, if the Soviet Union, through the 
MPLA, dictated the outcome in Angola with the United States sitting on the sidelines, 
American credibility would, again, be called into question. This would further jeopardize 
the international structure of stability he had worked so hard to achieve and maintain. 

As the president and his chief foreign policy adviser witnessed the unfolding events 
in Angola during the late spring and early summer of 1975, they perceived the situation 
as a Soviet challenge to international equilibrium. Moreover, the alleged Soviet 
provocation came at a time when the White House believed that the disastrous ending to 
the American involvement in Southeast Asia had seriously called into question American 
competence and commitment to respond to Soviet adventurism. From Washington’s 

397 Senator Dick Clark, “Abandon Angola to Russia: Soviets are not Apt to Gain a Tremendous Amount,” 
interview by U.S. News and World Report (February 23, 1976), [database on-line]; available from Lexis- 
Nexis Academic. 



286 


perspective, determined action was required to show that the United States, as the leader 
of the West, was prepared to carry out its global responsibilities. As Kissinger tells us, 
those obligations principally involved foreclosing Soviet opportunities and defining the 

398 

limits of Soviet aims 7 

The Credibility Complex 

Senator Clark, among others, expressed skepticism about the Ford Administration’s 
argument that the United States needed to intervene in Angola because of “its assumption 
that a victory by the Soviet-backed faction would prove that the United States does not 
have the will to defend the world against Soviet aggression.” 399 However, the link 
between the idea of American credibility and American actions in Angola ran 
consistently throughout the Executive Branch’s consideration of the Angolan conflict in 
the weeks and months before the July decision to intervene. Kissinger and others also 
unfailingly followed this line of reasoning during the debates over the Tunney 
Amendment and during Senator Clark’s hearings in early 1976, which resulted in the 
passage of his amendment to the Foreign Assistance Bill, permanently cutting off funds 
to the pro-Westem factions in Angola. 

There was some dissension in the ranks over the reason for the American 
involvement, but not at the highest levels. Some regionally oriented State Department 

398 Kissinger, White House Years, 119. 

399 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 2. 



287 


and CIA officials apparently believed that the United States’ main concern with a 
Communist MPLA regime in Angola was the potential for instability throughout southern 
Africa, which would affect the security of pro-Westem Zaire and Zambia. Moreover, the 
possibility of racial war in South Africa and Rhodesia would increase if the radical 
Popular Movement, supported by its Soviet and Cuban allies, decided to aid and abet 
other liberations movements in the region . 400 

However, neither Kissinger, nor the president, nor any of the other leading figures, 
such as African Bureau chiefs Ed Mulcahy or William Schaufele and CIA Director 
Colby, advanced this argument to explain the primary reason as to why the United States 
intervened . 401 They did point out, frequently, that they had considered the potentially 


400 The idea that the major concern of the United States in the outcome of the Angolan conflict revolved 
around a victorious MPLA supporting other liberation movements in southern Africa, thereby increasing 
instability and also weakening South Africa’s attempts to construct friendly relations with its more 
moderate neighbors, such as Malawi and Zambia (South Africa’s own detente policy), was advanced in 
several official documents by members of the State Department and the CIA. In June 1975, for example, 
an inter-agency task force consisting primarily of State and Agency members issued a report that stated, “A 
Neto victory, if accompanied by Angolan militancy against efforts at detente in southern Africa, could 
worsen the racial problems in that area (Rhodesia, Namibia and South Africa) and adversely affect U.S. 
interest in a peaceful resolution of these problems.” “Special Sensitive Memorandum Regarding Response 
to NSSM 224: ‘United States Policy toward Angola,”’ June 25, 1975, p. 4 [database on-line]; available 
from Digital National Security Archive. Also, a December 1975 State Department background paper for 
Under Secretary of State Sisco’s meeting with a congressional delegation raised the issue of instability in 
the region as a major U.S. concern, noting, “A radical Soviet-backed regime in Angola might be inclined to 
heat up the racial situation by supporting guerrilla movements in southern Africa.” “State Department 
Letter with Enclosures from AF - Edward W. Mulcahy, Acting, to Mr. Sisco, Subject: Your Breakfast 
Meeting December 18 with Members of the House of Representatives - Angola, Enclosure ‘U.S. 

Objectives in Angola,”’ p. 1 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive. 

401 This disagreement (or perhaps confusion?) over the reason why the United States became involved in 
Angola - a not-insignificant disagreement primarily between the president, Kissinger, and the highest 
levels of the State Department and CIA on the one hand, and lower ranking members of the executive 



288 


adverse security and economic ramifications of a neighboring, ostensibly hostile and 
Communist Angola for Zaire and Zambia. This consideration, however, did not stand 
alone on its own merits, but was always part of the main argument that Moscow’s alleged 
adventurism in Angola, where it had no historical interests, was a test of American will 
power and resolve to assist friends in resisting Communist aggression; failure to act 
decisively would weaken American credibility and have serious consequences for global 
stability, and hence, American national security. 

Further, in justifying the necessity for American involvement, high-level officials, 
unlike those at lower ranks, avoided discussing the potential for racial warfare between 
the last bastions of white supremacy in the region and the black liberation movements. In 
fact, as shown by the declassified transcripts of Kissinger’s weekly State Department 


bureaucracy on the other - was highlighted in an Op-ed by Graham Hovey of the New York Times. He 
argued that the Tunney Amendment passed in the Senate primarily because different members of the 
Executive Branch gave different accounts to the senators when asked why the United States intervened in 
Angola. In testimony before several of the Senate committees considering the issue, Kissinger asserted that 
the problem was not whether the MPLA won in Angola, “but whether the United States still has the will to 
behave as a great power and to resist Soviet military intervention in an area where there is no legitimate 
Soviet interest. In deploring the Senate action. President Ford spoke in a similar vein.” In contrast, in 
testimony before the same committees, lower-ranking State and CIA officials told the senators that the 
main reason for American assistance to the anti-MPLA factions was that, “a victory for M.P.L.A. would 
make catastrophic war between whites and blacks in southern Africa more likely. They say a victorious 
M.P.L.A. could give maximum help to the guerrilla organization known as S.W.A.P.O., which carries out 
intermittent raids on Namibia (South-West Africa). They envision an alliance of M.P.L.A., S.W.A.P.O., 
the revolutionary government of Mozambique and the more radical black Rhodesian faction bent on 
settling the issue in Namibia, Rhodesia and finally South Africa itself by force, rather than by negotiation.” 
Given this divergence in the policy line, which brought into question the believability of both the president 
and Kissinger, Hovey correctly predicted that the House, like the Senate before it, would also pass the 
Tunney Amendment. Graham Hovey, “Fog and Worse on Angola,” New York Times, December 30, 1975, 
25. 



289 


meetings, he rarely exhibited any concern about white South Africa’s fate if the MPLA 
were to win in Angola. From his perspective, then, this issue was clearly subordinate to 
his principal argument that emphasized the importance of a demonstration of American 
resolve through actions . 402 

Interestingly, despite his previous concerns about falling dominoes in Southeast Asia, 
Kissinger never openly argued that either Zambia or Zaire would “fall to Communism” 
as a result of pressure from a Soviet-dominated Angola. Rather, he instead suggested that 
something akin to the “Finlandization” of these pro-Westem nations in sub-Saharan 
Africa would occur, although he never used that exact terminology . 403 


40 ~ References to the potential threat to South Africa are few and far between in Kissinger’s various 
meetings with his colleagues both prior to and after the July decision to intervene. In one meeting prior to 
that decision, in which the alleged coup attempt in Zaire and the situation next door in Angola were the 
only two topics, Kissinger, incorrectly labeling Zaire as the largest country in Africa, noted, “It simply 
cannot be in our interest to have Angola go communist. It is next to the largest country in Africa and it’s 
next to South Africa.” Department of State, Foreign Relations , 1969-1976 , Volume E-6, Documents on 
Africa, 1973-1976 , “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: Africa,” June 18, 1975 [database on-line]; 
available from http://www.state.gov. The Secretary of State did not elaborate upon this comment, 
probably demonstrating that while South Africa’s fate may have crossed his mind, he did not dwell on it or 
consider it as a preeminent consideration for American action in Angola. 

403 In the immediate aftermath of the American defeat in South Vietnam (or “retreat,” as President Ford 
preferred), Kissinger gave an interview to Barbara Walters on NBC’s “Today” show. He started the 
interview with a reference to the Domino Theory and the recent events in Southeast Asia. “There is in 
almost every major event a domino effect.” He then listed the three elements inherent in the effect as: “1) 
a change in the balance of forces, 2) ‘the perception of other countries’ and 3) ‘the general psychological 
climate that is created in the world as to who is advancing and who is withdrawing. . .this is inevitable.” 
Kissinger’s interview as reported by Stephen S. Rosenfeld, “Kissinger’s Postwar Confusion,” Washington 
Post, May 9, 1975, sec. A, p. 28. Having asserted his belief in the Domino Theory, he then retreated from 
this position somewhat by noting that perhaps the United States had made a mistake in South Vietnam by 
viewing the conflict in global terms, noting, “we perhaps might have perceived it more in Vietnamese 
terms rather than as the outward thrust of a global conspiracy.” Ibid. Perhaps this was a lesson the foreign 
policy architect took from Vietnam and applied to Angola, that is, comparing the effects of a Communist 



290 


He pessimistically, and probably unrealistically, envisioned that the whole of southern 
Africa, especially pro-American Zaire, which shared a long border with Angola, would 
probably move in an anti-Western direction if the United States abdicated its global 
responsibilities and stayed clear of the Angolan conflict. He told the National Security 
Council in late June 1975, for example, that if the United States decided to remain 
neutral, an option he adamantly opposed, and let the Angolan situation run its course, the 
probable consequences would be “that Neto would establish a dominant 
position. . .Angola would go in a leftward direction; and Zaire would conclude that we 
have disinterested ourselves in that part of the world and move towards anti- 
Americanism.” 404 

In October 1975, Kissinger would yet again reaffirm his concern over the 
“Finlandization” effects of a Soviet-backed MPLA victory on the rest of the region. In 
response to a question about the American involvement in Angola, which originated from 
an American Embassy officer in Kinshasa, Kissinger told the official, “My assessment 
was if the Soviet Union can interfere eight thousand miles from home in an undisputed 


Angola to more of a “Finlandization” of its neighbors rather than casting them as dominoes about to fall to 
a Communist thrust in southern Africa. He apparently also saw such a future for Western Europe if the 
United States abdicated its leading role in the Western Alliance and allowed its allies to take the lead in 
developing their own policies of detente with the Soviet Union. This concern was magnified by the specter 
of Eurocommunism, and after April 1974, by the increasingly leftist trend in Portugal, as previously 
discussed. 

404 National Security Council, “Minutes of a National Security Council (NSC) Meeting Concerning Soviet 
Arms Shipments to Rebel Forces in Angola, June 27, 1975, pp. 3-4 [database on-line]; available from 
Declassified Documents Reference System. 



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way... then the Southern African countries must conclude that the U.S. had abdicated in 
Southern Africa. They will have two choices as to where to turn - to China or to the 
U.S.S.R. This tendency will then spread. If would shift Tanzania and others further left, 
and have a major effect in Africa .” 405 

The Secretary of State’s position, then, was that American passivity in the face of 
alleged Soviet aggression would tip the African dimension of the international balance of 
power in favor of the Communist world. This situation could occur even if some 
countries, such as Zaire, did not become Communist but merely anti-American, and it 
would have serious consequences for the nation’s international security interests, 
especially the objective of maintaining global equilibrium with the Soviet Union. 

Kissinger’s gloomy idea about the “Finlandization” of southern Africa, of course, was 
directly related to the credibility component of American foreign policy - the main 
element of the administration’s broad perspective on the American stakes in Angola. 
Washington officials justified American intervention on the grounds that it was necessary 


405 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 792. Other high-ranking Ford Administration officials echoed Kissinger’s 
sentiments on this issue. William Hyland, the State Department’s Intelligence and Research Bureau chief, 
expressed his thoughts on the consequences of an MPLA victory on southern Africa. “The outlook is for a 
continuing civil war. . .Over time, the MPLA, assuming strong Soviet support, will gain control over most 
of the country, forcing Savimbi to come to terms, especially if Kaunda believes he must deal with the 
MPLA for access to the sea; in this case, Mobutu will probably also look to a settlement... The main point 
for the US is that the African participants should not be led to this conclusion because they find us a weak 
reed.” Department of State, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume E-6, Documents of Africa, 1973-1976, 
“Memorandum from William G. Hyland to the Secretary, Subject: Comments on Embassy Kinshasa Cable 
on Angola,” October 15, 1975 [database on-line]; available from http://www.state.gov. 



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to demonstrate American firmness, to friends and foes alike, in the face of what they 
contended was Soviet expansionism. Resolute American action in Angola would 
discourage, or deter, further Soviet (and Cuban) adventurism elsewhere and encourage 
pro-Westem nations in southern Africa to resist the imposition of a Marxist government 
through the force of Soviet arms and Cuban proxy combatants. 

Assistant Secretary of State William E. Schaufele, Jr., summed up this perspective by 
predicting the results of an MPLA victory if the United States failed to respond 
adequately to the Angolan crisis: 

- Moscow and Havana may see themselves shortly in a position to 
pursue their ambitions elsewhere under the dangerously mistaken 
notion that in succeeding once they can succeed again. 

- In the post-Angolan atmosphere of insecurity and disillusionment 
with the lack of U.S. support, the states neighboring Angola - Zaire 
and Zambia - must be under great pressure to seek an accommodation 
disadvantageous to them or see their vital exit to the ocean threatened. 

- Other African states would adjust to the realities of power so vividly 
demonstrated in Angola by the Soviet airlift and the Cuban 
expeditionary force. 

- Those Soviet officials who pushed this “national liberation” struggle 
on the heels of Viet-Nam will have been proven right. Indeed, the 
sweeping returns in Africa from involvement in a single internal 
power struggle can only encourage similar adventures elsewhere. 

- And in the last analysis we risk bringing on other confrontations 
in the future under conditions less advantageous to us and more 
dangerous to us all . 406 


406 William E. Schaufele, Jr., “The African Dimension of the Angolan Conflict,” The Department of State 
Bulletin LXXIV, no. 1914 (March 1, 1976): 282-283. These are the same comments Assistant Secretary 



293 


In contrast to the administration’s arguments about what was at stake for the United 
States in Angola, the majority of the Congress did not see the situation in Angola, and 
particularly the American involvement there, in the same light. Rather, the supporters of 
first the Tunney Amendment, and later the Clark Amendment, expressed their belief that 
Angola was not the place to unfurl the flag of American credibility . 407 Senator Birch 
Bayh (D-IN) succinctly captured this sense of the Congress in his own arguments in 
support of the Tunney Amendment, which are equally applicable to the debate over the 
follow-on Clark Amendment. “The war in Angola presents the first test of American 
policy after Vietnam. Unfortunately, our performance to date indicates that we have not 
learned from our mistakes. Rather than recognizing our limitations and carefully 
analyzing our interests, we are again plunging into a conflict in a far corner of the world 
as if we believed it was still our mission to serve as policeman of the world .” 408 


Schaufele made in his February 6, 1976 testimony before Senator Clark’s Subcommittee on African 
Affairs. 

407 In his constituent newsletter of Decemberl975, Senator Clifford P. Case (R-NJ), expressing the 
sentiments of most of his colleagues wrote, “The rain forests of Angola are the wrong place to nail the flag 
of American prestige,” accusing the Ford Administration of trying to superimpose the “big picture” of 
American-Soviet relations upon a fragmented tribal mosaic and a civil war “that is basically a tribal and 
personality conflict.” “Newsletter- 190: U.S. Policy in Angola,” pp. 1, 2, December 1975, White House 
Central File Subject File, C07: Angola 3/1/76 - 1/20/77, Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. Senator Clifford 
was one of the congressmen briefed by the administration after President Ford’s decision in July to support 
the pro-American factions in Angola. Like Senator Clark and others, he had voiced no objections at the 
time. Later, however, like many of his colleagues, as the extent of the American involvement became 
clearer and details were leaked to the press, he became a staunch supporter of both the Tunney and Clark 
Amendments. 

408 Congressional Record - Senate , 94 th Cong., 2d sess.. Senator Bayh, “U.S. Intervention in Angola,” 
December 15, 1975, S 22086. 



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The administration rejected this reasoning, reaffirming its position on the link between 

American leadership and resolve in Angola and global stability. Following the Senate’s 

passage of the Tunney Amendment on December 18, 1975, for example, President Ford, 

in sync with Kissinger’s global thinking and his emphasis on the issue of American 

credibility, called the vote an “abdication of responsibility,” which would have the 

gravest consequences for the long-term position of the United States and for international 

order. “A great nation cannot escape its responsibilities. Responsibilities abandoned 

today will return as more acute crises tomorrow.” 409 

In an ironic twist of history, 1975 had started out with President Ford requesting that 

Congress appropriate additional monies to two American allies in Southeast Asia who 

faced defeat by Communist-supported, indigenous forces. The year ended with the 

president again requesting additional funding for pro-Westem movements in far-off 

Angola, which also faced defeat by a Communist-supported indigenous movement. 

These 1 1 th hour requests came about because the makers of American foreign policy 

believed that any perceived sign of American weakness or indecision would cause 

adversaries to question whether American threats and warnings should be taken seriously 

409 “Ford Public Statement/Press Release on Senate Vote on Tunney Amendment to Defense 
Appropriations Bill,” undated. White House Central Files, Subject File, FO 3-2/C07: Mutual 
Security/ Angola, Box 22, Gerald R. Ford Library. In his autobiography. President Ford elaborated on his 
thoughts about the rejection of the last-minute plan to reinforce the FNLA and UNITA. He was especially 
concerned about the consequences for American leadership of the Western bloc, noting that after the vote, 
“The French backed off, unwilling to act alone.” Gerald R. Ford, A Time to Heal (Harper & Row, 
Publishers, Inc., 1979): 345. 



295 


and friends to wonder if the United States could be counted upon to come to their aid if 
needed. American credibility would suffer as a result, with adverse consequences both 
for the nation’s future role in the world and international equilibrium. 

The Stance - The Soviet Union is the Culprit 

The second part of this chapter examines the timelines, or chronological sequence, of 
the American intervention, again as told by officials of the Ford Administration. Where 
necessary to augment and clarify the official government argument advanced in support 
of the American involvement, I have also included the analyses and assessments of the 
Angolan situation prepared at the time and shortly thereafter by various government 
bureaucracies, largely the CIA’s Africa Division and the State Department’s African 
Bureau. The major question in the discussion is, “Which nation, the Soviet Union or the 
United States, initially provoked a response from the other that, in turn, lead to an 
intensifying action-reaction cycle and the escalation of the Angolan conflict into a civil 
war and super-power crises?” 

The Ford Administration consistently argued that the United States’ involvement 
came only after large Soviet arms deliveries to the MPLA. They alleged this operation 
was a planned, systematic rearming of Agostinho Neto’s forces, which began in the late 
summer of 1974. The Soviet effort emboldened the Popular Movement to attempt to 



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seize power by force of arms, assisted initially by a contingent of Cuban trainers and 
advisers and later by actual Cuban combatants. 

In contrast to this type of Soviet provocation, officials contended that only in July 
1975 did the United States decide to act, after continuing appeals from Angola’s pro- 
Western neighbors, most notably Zaire and Zambia. Even then, the United States 
provided only limited financial and military support to the FNLA and UNITA. Under 
Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco clearly stated this position, in December 1975, in an 
effort to convince key members of the House of Representatives that they should reject 
the Tunney Amendment, even as the Senate was approving the measure. Mr. Sisco based 
the key points of his meeting with the congressional delegation on a briefing paper from 
the State Department’s African Bureau (AF). While quite lengthy, it can be summarized 
as follows: 

United States policy toward Angola was, until mid 75, one of 
noninvolvement. Despite the political upheavals in Portugal, we 
hoped Portugal and Angola’ s liberation movements could work 
out a peaceful transition to independence. . .Others did not share 
this view. Soviet arms shipments changed the balance of power 
and ruined hopes for a compromise. Because the MPFA-Soviets 
attempted to seize power in Angola, FNFA/UNITA appealed to 
us for help. Angola’s neighbors also looked to us to counter the 
Soviet intrusion, especially Zaire and Zambia. After exhaustive 
assessment, the Executive Branch approved, in July, a program of 
special activities. The program was not intended to crush the MPFA. 

Our limited commitments have two objectives: 1) preventing the 
MPFA and its Soviet and Cuban backers from achieving a quick 



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military take-over of Angola; and 2) sufficiently redressing the balance 
among Angola’s movements to facilitate a political solution. 410 

President Ford followed up this executive-legislative meeting with a letter to Speaker 
Carl Albert just prior to the House vote on the amendment in late January 1976, 
reiterating the State Department’s argument and concluding, “As I have stated on a 
number of occasions, the US seeks no special advantage in Angola, nor are we opposed 
to the MPLA faction per se. Our sole objective has been to preserve the opportunity for 
this Angolan problem to be resolved by Angolans, and not through the application of 
brute military force by the Soviet Union and Cuba.” 411 

Who Did What, and When: Part One 

August 1974 saw Washington, D.C., indeed the entire nation, suffused with 
uncertainty as a result of President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation on the 9th and the 
ascendancy to the Oval Office of the former unelected vice president and now unelected 
president, Gerald R. Ford. However, this did not prevent Secretary of State Henry 
Kissinger, although belatedly, from meeting with his Zairian counterpart, Umba-di- 


410 “ State Department Letter with Enclosures from AF - Edward W. Mulcahy, Acting, to Mr. Sisco, 
Subject: Your Breakfast Meeting December 18 with Members of the House of Representatives - Angola, 
Enclosure ‘U.S. Policy in Angola,’” p. 1 [Database on-line]; available from Digital National Security 
Archive. 

411 Gerald R. Ford Letter to Carl Albert, Speaker of the House, January 27, 1976, p. 2, National Security 
Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Country File Africa, Angola (3), Box 1, Gerald R. Ford 
Library. 



298 


412 

Letete, on August 13. After the exchange of normal diplomatic niceties, Umba quickly 
got down to the important items on his agenda. First, he assured Kissinger that President 
Mobutu had no intentions of nationalizing foreign assets in Zaire, totaling one and one- 
half billion dollars, mostly from the United States. Kissinger’s response was to remark 
that American-Zairian relations were of great importance and that the United States 
regarded Zaire as “a king-pin in our policies toward Africa.” 413 

Apparently satisfied with this response, Umba then proceeded to his second point, 
which was to ask for American support for Holden Roberto, including increased 
American contacts with the FNLA leader. He described Roberto as “a genuine non- 


m In the summer of 1974, in addition to his concern over pressing global matters, Kissinger was, no doubt, 
also worried over what his relationship would be with the new president, especially how that relationship 
would affect his continuation as the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Secretary 
of State. President Ford, a congressman since 1948, had limited experience in foreign policy. As early as 
March 1974, with the Watergate hearings running full throttle and the Nixon presidency in increasing 
jeopardy, then Vice President Ford reportedly told John Osborne of The New Republic that he would keep 
Kissinger on as his top foreign policy adviser. Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography, 601. Isaacson also 
relates that during Nixon’s final month in office, with the fate of his presidency now sealed, Kissinger 
assumed the responsibility of personally bringing the president-to-be up to date on the major foreign policy 
issues. In his memoirs. Ford acknowledged that he personally called Kissinger and told him, “Henry, I 
need you.” Ford, A Time to Heal, 30. Although President Ford was set on bringing his own team into the 
Oval Office, including Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, as noted by historian Jussi Hanhimaki, “The 
new president had no intention of messing around with the remaining original of his predecessor: Henry 
Kissinger.” Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect, 361. Despite the eventual removal of many of Nixon’s top 
advisers and some of Kissinger’s trusted confidantes, Alexander Haig for example, Kissinger’s position 
with the new president was solid, especially after President Ford appointed Nelson Rockefeller, Kissinger’s 
long-time friend, ally and mentor, as his vice president. 

413 Umba expressed concern over what he believed to be “Belgium’s efforts to discredit Zaire in the eyes of 
many foreigners,” in which the former, at least according to Umba, was trying to convince Western 
investors that Zaire was about to move against all foreign investment in the country. Foreign Relation of 
the United States, 1969-1976, vol. E-6, Documents on Africa, 1973-1976, Department of State, 
“Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: US-Zaire Relations,” August 13, 1974 [database on-line]; 
available from http://www.state.gov. 



299 


communist patriot” and “the most genuine of the liberation leaders,” who shared the same 
political views as Zaire itself. Agostinho Neto, on the other hand, “is a propagandist, a 
man of talk and no action,” and “fortunately,” the MPLA was “on its back.” The 
discussion on Angola dominated the conversation and Secretary Kissinger told Umba that 
the United States would consider his request for increased contacts with, as well as 
support for, Holden Roberto. Umba emphasized that events in Angola “could very well 
move quite fast. It is important that events not pass us by,” suggesting he preferred an 
answer to his request sooner rather than later. Kissinger declined to promise anything 
other than consideration . 414 

The Secretary of State subsequently sent a follow-up telegram to the American 
Embassy in Kinshasa (with a copy to the Lisbon Embassy and the Consulate General in 
Luanda) detailing his conversation with Umba. The telegram from the Secretary of 
State began by noting that he had received the Zairian foreign minister for a forty-five 
minute meeting. “As expected Umba appealed for US support of Holden Roberto. 
Secretary said US would consider seriously GOZ’s request.” After this introduction, 
Kissinger summarized the important parts of the meeting, noting that while he told Umba 


414 


Ibid. 



300 


that the United States would consider the issue of increased support for Holden Robert 
and raising the level of contact with him, he had made no promises. 415 

Kissinger would later testify, in late January 1976, that while the United States had 
received several requests in 1974 for support of “other Angolan elements,” probably 
referring primarily to the FNLA but possibly also Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA, the United 
States turned them down. 416 The August 13 conversation and Kissinger’s follow-up 
telegram appear to support the administration’s allegations that the United States stayed 
away from the Angolan situation, at least during 1974, even after Zaire and others had 


415 Department of State Telegram, Subject: Secretary’s Meeting with Umba-Di-Lutete, August 14, 1974, 
pp. 1, 2, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department 
Telegrams from SecState - EXDIS, Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. “GOZ” is the Government of Zaire. 
Journalist Bruce Oudes, an outspoken critic of American foreign policy in Africa and of the American 
involvement in Angola, ironically lends credence to Kissinger’s claim that the United States stayed out of 
the Angolan imbroglio until 1975. Citing an informed American diplomat, Oudes alleges that in the 
summer of 1974, the CIA began to advocate American intervention in Angola in support of the FNLA and 
perhaps also UNITA. The Agency pressured Donald Easum, the Assistant Secretary of State for African 
Affairs, to adopt this position. Easum resisted this pressure, but his successor in early 1975, Nathaniel 
Davis was ultimately much less successful. Oudes implicates Lawrence R. Devlin, the CIA station chief in 
Kinshasa during the turbulent events in 1965, which brought President Mobutu to power in Zaire via a 
military coup, as the impetus behind the CIA’s push for American involvement. Devlin, the CIA’s 
clandestine operations director for Africa prior to his June 1974 retirement from the agency, immediately 
returned to Kinshasa as the Zairian representative of Maurice Tempelsman, where, as a friend and ally of 
Mobutu (and no doubt Holden Roberto), he acted as an unofficial liaison between the latter and the CIA in 
both Kinshasa and Langley, VA. Oudes notes that the CIA pressure on Easum began “within weeks after 
Mr. Devlin’s return to Kinshasa in his retirement job.” Bruce Oudes, “South Africa, U.S. Secrets,” 
Baltimore Sun, 22 February 1976. Piero Gleijeses somewhat substantiates Oudes assessment. Based upon 
his personal interview with Easum, he says that it was Devlin’s successor as the African division chief in 
the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, Jim Potts, who actually began pressuring Easum, in mid- 1974, on the 
issue of United States aid for Holden Roberto. The Assistant Secretary for Africa disagreed, and “To 
Easum’s knowledge, Potts ‘didn’t go higher,’ that is, directly to Kissinger.” Gleijeses, Conflicting 
Missions, 28 1 . 

416 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 9. 



301 


asked for American support for Holden Roberto. As we will see in Chapter 7, however, 
this was not the case. 

The opening volley of the Ford Administration’s argument, then, is that despite such 
requests after the Portuguese had decided to grant Angolan independence, the United 
States maintained its distance from the Angolan situation. 417 It wasn’t until January 22, 
1975, a week after the three liberation movements had agreed with the Portuguese to 
follow a political path to independence, that the United States, specifically the Forty 
Committee, decided to provide Holden Roberto with $300,000. The allocation was to be 
used for political purposes as the FNLA prepared for participation in the elections 
scheduled for 31 October 1975. The administration contended that this sum was not only 
modest, given the Soviet arms deliveries of the previous fall (as will be discussed), but 
also that the Forty Committee refused to authorize any support whatsoever for Jonas 
Savimbi’s movement. As noted by Kissinger, “Later it was charged that the modest 


417 In the summer of 1974, the United States did change its position on the level of contacts with the various 
liberation movements, authorizing contacts up to the Chief of Mission level. This action was probably 
related to the accelerating road to Angolan independence, but came only after Portuguese Foreign Minister 
Soares, apparently acting for his government, told Kissinger the Portuguese posed no objection to the 
United States’ “taking up contact with the national liberation movements.” “Minutes from the Secretary’s 
Principals’ and Regional Staff Meeting,” July 10, 1974 [Database on-line]; available from Digital National 
Security Archive, Kissinger Transcripts. By about mid-July 1974, then, the American Consul General in 
Luanda, Tom Killoran, was free to speak directly to all three. 



302 


increase in the political subsidy to Roberto triggered all subsequent escalations. This is 
an absurdity.” 418 

Who Did What, and When: Part Two 

The second part of the administration’s argument is that the Soviet Union resumed its 
support to the MPLA in August 1974, months before the United States became involved 
in Angola. This resumption of support followed a twenty-month hiatus in its historical 
assistance to the movement, which dated back to at least the mid-1960s. Moreover, it 
occurred, perhaps not coincidentally, at the same time as the MFA in Lisbon announced 
its two-year plan for Angolan independence. The renewed support apparently included 
both weapons deliveries and some form of financial assistance probably intended for 
political purposes. 

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, William E. Schaufele, Jr., testified 
before Senator Clark’s 1976 African Subcommittee hearings on 6 February. He 
reaffirmed Kissinger’s previous testimony that the United States had rejected African 
requests to provide military assistance to the FNLA in 1974, showing restraint while 
maintaining an interested, but non-involved, stance on the Angolan situation. In contrast, 
the Soviet Union’s renewed support to the MPLA, beginning in August 1974, involved 
“extensive” rearming of the Popular Movement. 

418 


Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 795. 



303 

Schaufele alleged that the first Soviet arms shipment, of what was to grow into an 
estimated $6 million total delivery between August 1974 and January 1975, was initially 
funneled through the OAU’s Liberation Committee in Dar-es-Salaam. He went on to 
claim that since there was no evidence that this first consignment reached any other of the 
southern African liberation movements, the MPLA was presumably the intended 
recipient. By October or November, the Cabindan enclave, where the MPLA was 
ascendant, and the Congo (Brazzaville), a leftist leaning government that maintained 
friendly relations with both the Kremlin and Havana, became the main arms transfer 
points for the MPLA. 419 

Although Schaufele admitted that the United States did not know the exact quantities 
of Soviet arms delivered between August 1974 and January 1975, “they were sufficient to 
equip a 5,000-7,000 man MPLA force by January 1975 (up from perhaps 1,500 in August 
1974, exclusive of Chipenda’s units), as well as provide thousands of AK-47s to the 
amorphous “People’s Power” in the Luanda ghettoes. These latter arms were first used in 
the fighting in Luanda in November 1974 between MPLA and FNLA.” 420 


419 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, February 6, 1976, 184. There is a discrepancy in 
Schaufele’ s testimony on the exact month of the first consignment of Soviet arms to the MPLA in late 
1974. He originally testified that Soviet arms deliveries to the MPLA did not resume until October 1974. 
Ibid., 175. When further questioned by Senator Clark about the exact time the extensive rearming began, 
including how much was delivered, Schaufele said he did not have that information with him. Shortly 
thereafter, based upon information provided by the State Department, he noted the August date as the first 
indications of renewed Soviet arms shipments to the MPLA. Ibid., 184. 

420 Ibid. 



304 


On the political front, after the MPLA and the other two movements had opened 
offices in Luanda in early November 1974 following their respective ceasefires with the 
Portuguese government, the MPLA made no attempt to conceal its restored backing. 
Schaufele testified, “From the arrival of the MPLA delegation in Luanda in November 
1974, it was obvious they suffered no lack of funds to propagandize and organize their 
political backing.” ' In late 1974, then, even as the Soviet Union continued its delivery 
of arms to the MPLA and skirmishes between the MPLA and FNLA intensified, 
especially in Luanda where over 100 deaths were reported in fighting between the two 
from 5-11 November, the United States stayed clear of the rapidly deteriorating 

. . A?? 

situation. 

On January 6, 1975, following the agreement in Mombasa, Kenya, by the three 
Angolan liberation movements to present a unified front in preparation for independence 
negotiations with the Portuguese at Alvor, Kissinger received an update from the State 
Department on the Angolan situation. During the course of the briefing on Angola, as 
related by Kissinger, he asked a question that, according to him, exhibited the continued 
American disinterest in and distance from events in Angola. “It surely attested to our 


421 Ibid. 

422 Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on International Relations, United States Policy on 
Angola: Hearing before the Committee on International Relations , 94 th Cong., 2 nd sess., January 26, 1976, 
38. This information on the violence in Luanda was contained in the Appendix : Chronology of Events 
Relating to Angola (April 25, 1974-January 29, 1976). 



305 


detachment from the fray when I asked. . .which of the contending groups was most 
compatible with the American national interest.” The Secretary’s question came despite 
the CIA’s long-time association with Holden Roberto and his National Front, which the 
Agency judged most likely to succeed in any power struggle, and its advocacy of 
American support for the FNLA. 

The Ford Administration also contended that it supported the Alvor accord, while the 
Soviet Union ignored it by arming the MPLA. As previously discussed, the 15 January 
1975 Alvor agreement between Lisbon and the three liberation movements ostensibly 


423 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 795. The actual minutes of the meeting read somewhat differently from 
Kissinger’s account, but the gist of the discussion is the same. Kissinger asked Edward Mulcahy, then the 
acting assistant secretary for Africa, what AF was doing on the Angolan issue. Mulcahy responded that his 
bureau had an options paper almost ready for Kissinger’s review. Kissinger then stated that he wanted to 
see it as soon as possible and asked, “Would it also include your views as to which group is best for us?” 
Mulcahy replied, “Yes, sir.” “Minutes from the Secretary’s 8:00 a.m. Staff Meeting - January 6, 1975,” 
pp. 5-6 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, Kissinger Transcripts 
Collection. Historian Odd Arne Westad’s analysis of the Angolan crisis supports Kissinger’s argument that 
the United States remained detached from the developing situation in early 1975. He notes that the South 
African ambassador to Washington, J.S.F. Botha, in a message to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs in which 
he discussed the deepening Angolan situation and the increasing South African concerns, reported that 
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Donald Easum, has told him in January that the Ford 
Administration had “so little interest that it would take a major sales job to persuade any American agency 
to become involved in a new program in Africa.” Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War. Third World 
Interventions and the Making of Our Times (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 229-230. 
Kissinger’s disinterest in the Angolan situation in early 1975 is probably attributable to several 
circumstances. First, his carefully crafted triangular diplomacy with the Soviet Union and China had begun 
to unravel by late 1974-early 1975. He no doubt devoted much of his attention to that complex issue. 
Secondly, despite his shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East, peace in the region seemed as far off as ever. 
Thirdly, Secretary of State Kissinger was notorious for his disdain of, and disregard, for events in the 
southern hemisphere, as was discussed in Chapter 2. Finally, and importantly for this study, the CIA and 
State’s African Bureau had been briefing him that Holden Roberto’s FNLA was in the driver’s seat in 
Angola, militarily and politically, as will be discussed in later chapters. This apparently was all Kissinger 
wanted, or needed, to hear about Angola at the time. 



306 


chartered a peaceful and rapid path to Angolan independence. Still, international 
observers attuned to the Portuguese decolonization process in Angola were not overly 
optimistic that the peaceful road map would survive the deep animosities among the three 
factions, especially those between the two largest - the FNLA and MPLA - and the 
historical propensities of each to seek external support. These sentiments were shared by 
some of the Portuguese authorities involved in reaching the accord. 

According to journalist Henry Giniger, one official who was present at the opening 
session captured the gloomy atmosphere of the event. Referring to the leaders of the 
liberation movements, he remarked, “I wondered to myself who among them would be 
alive a year from now .” 424 Soon afterwards, when talks briefly stalled as the three 
liberation movements continued to work out the details, journalist Giniger observed that 
the Portuguese were relieved when a common front was reached after daylong 
negotiations among the three. Believing, then, that a full agreement could be quickly 
reached, “The Portuguese were hoping the groups’ unity would last long enough for 
Portugal to disengage, completing her decolonization process in Africa .” 425 

At the signing ceremony signaling the successful conclusion to the talks, Giniger 
summed up the still generally pessimistic mood by noting that many of the Portuguese 

424 Henry Giniger, “For Independent Angola, A Great Threat of Strife, New York Times, January 16, 1975, 
12 . 

4-5 Henry Giniger, “Angolans Offer Plan to Portugal,” New York Times, January 12, 1975, 11. 



307 


expected the agreement to eventually break down “as rivalries, encouraged by outside 
interests, erupt .” 426 

In public, Kissinger spoke favorably, if somewhat pessimistically, of the Portuguese 
effort to promote a peaceful transition to Angolan independence, but still implying that 
the United States honored Lisbon’s call for restraint by all outside parties. Hence, he 
contended, “This is why the United States did not support UNITA and had only the most 


426 Giniger, “For Independent Angola, A Great Threat to Strife.” Not everyone, apparently, was as somber 
about the prospects of a non-violent road to independence as those officials referred to by Mr. Giniger. 
Nicholas Ashford, a British journalist present at the Alvord accord’s signing ceremony, reported a cautious 
optimism among some of those Portuguese officials present. “Today’s ceremony virtually completes a 
decolonization process which began only nine months ago when the Army ousted the right-wing Caetano 
regime. Despite some bloodshed. . .decolonization has so far gone surprisingly smoothly. Whether it will 
continue to do so remains to be seen. However, it is recognized that a major step toward unification has 
been taken during the Mombasa talks 10 days ago and during the current negotiations.” Nicolas Ashford, 
“Angola Independence Set for November at Portugal Signing,” Times (London), lanuary 16, 1975, 8. 

427 In reference to Kissinger’s pessimism over the Alvor agreement - a trait that seemed inherent in the 
Secretary of State’s character - he, like many others both within and outside the government, were quick to 
point out that the fulfillment of the Alvor provisions fundamentally rested on the ability of the three 
factions to work together and cooperate - a proclivity they had not historically demonstrated. Kissinger 
testified, for example, “The prospect of an independent Angola was clouded by the intense rivalry of the 
FNLA, MPLA and UNITA.” Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 9. 
Later, he would reiterate his gloomy view of the chances for Alvor’ s success by referring to the article by 
Henry Giniger, previously cited in note 424, in which the sentiments of at least one official Portuguese 
observer of the negotiations expressed the widespread lingering doubts on the viability and durability of 
any agreement among the three factions. Alluding first to a New York Times editorial which celebrated the 
signing of the accord, Kissinger noted, somewhat caustically, that the Times' correspondent on the ground 
(Giniger), “proved closer to the Angolan reality when he quoted one observer who had seen Roberto, Neto, 
and Savimbi together: ‘I wondered to myself who among them would be alive a year from now.’” 
Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 795. Other newspapers also skeptically reported on the prospects for 
successful implementation of the agreement, especially its ability to temper the internecine rivalry of the 
three factions. David Ottaway, for instance, wrote, “The entire complicated arrangement appears to be 
little more than a holding operation until the election of a constituent assembly in October, out of which a 
single united leadership for an independent Angola would, it is hoped, emerge. But the continuing 
independence of each nationalist group, all mutually hostile and deeply suspicious of one another’s 
intentions, does not augur well for peace before or after the colony’s liberation from Portugal. David B. 
Ottaway, “Dissident Nationalist Leader Threatens Angola Civil War,” Washington Post, January 29, 1975, 
sec A, p. 18. 



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modest support for the FNLA,” referring, yet again, to the Forty Committee’s 
authorization of $300,000 for the movement in January 1975. 428 

In contrast, Ford officials alleged that the Soviet Union, encouraged by the Portuguese 
Communist Party (PCP), whose political prospects in the metropole in the fall of 1974 
were on the rise, believed that a parallel revolutionary situation was developing in 
Angola. 429 The Kremlin decided, then, to reinforce this ideological windfall by a renewal 
of military and financial support to its long-term client, the MPLA, with the goal of 
putting Neto’s movement into power in Angola. It was this decision, and its ensuing 
rearmament actions, that set the stage for the later, rapid deterioration of the Alvor 
agreement and the escalation of the factional struggle into a full-scale civil war. 

Who Did What, and When: Part Three 

The third part of the administration’s overall argument in defense of the American 
involvement relates to the next phase of the Angolan crisis, essentially encompassing the 
installation of the transitional government on 31 January up to late March 1975. As 
alleged by spokesmen for the Ford Administration, by the end of January, the Soviet 
Union’s military support to the MPLA, begun in the fall of 1974, had tapered off. 


428 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 795. 

429 Charles K. Ebinger supports Kissinger’s assertion that the PCP was instrumental in the Soviet decision 
to resume its support to the MPLA in 1974. In his November 9, 1974 interview with Alvaro Cunhal, 
Secretary General of the PCP, Ebinger noted that Cunhal claimed that the renewed support for the MPLA 
came “on the advice of the Portuguese Communist Party.” Charles K. Ebinger, “External Intervention in 
Internal War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Angolan Civil War,” Orbis 20, no. 3 (Fall 1976): 688. 



309 


However, they claimed that Moscow significantly expanded its weapons assistance in the 
early spring of 1975, using the Congo (Brazzaville) as the primary transshipment point 
for Soviet arms. At the same time, the flow of arms from other Communist bloc nations 
also increased. 

Kissinger and others contended that the objective of this massive influx of weapons 
and equipment was to install the MPLA, by force of arms, as the post-independence 
Angolan government, precluding any participation by the FNLA and UNITA. They 
alleged that the increasingly militant actions of the MPLA, beginning in February 1975, 
as discussed below, visibly demonstrated this objective. 

In February 1975, there were several minor clashes between the partisans of the 
MPLA and the FNLA both in Luanda and its environs and to the north and east of the 
capital, the traditional stronghold of the FNLA and its ethnic support base. These 
skirmishes escalated into several major battles between the National Front and the 
Popular Movement during the March through June timeframe. The sporadic outbursts of 
inter-movement violence were followed by short-lived lulls in fighting in the wake of the 
several ceasefires, none of which lasted more than a few days. Administration officials 
claimed that the MPLA provoked these actions, citing most frequently the Popular 
Movement’s attack upon the Luanda headquarters of Daniel Chipenda on February 13. 



310 


During the assault, the MPLA killed fifteen to twenty of Chipenda’s supporters and 
expelled the remaining members from the capital . 430 

Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA, militarily the smallest and weakest of the three movements, 
was largely successful in staying clear of the fighting while Holden Roberto’s FNLA, 
according to administration officials, bore the brunt of the noticeable increase in MPLA 
militancy. Moreover, as alleged, Soviet weapons emboldened the MPLA, which showed 
through its ensuing belligerent actions that it was not interested in sharing power with its 
rivals. Thus, as Kissinger was quick to assert, from the earliest moments of the 
transitional government, the MPLA “had little incentive to fulfill the terms of the Alvor 


430 This attack was not technically a violation of the Alvor agreement. Chipenda had not officially joined 
the FNLA at the time and the Portuguese did not recognize him as a legitimate party to the accords. 
However, it did demonstrate the fears Neto’s MPLA faction still harbored for the discredited, but still 
powerful and threatening Chipenda and his contingent of seasoned combat veterans. These fears were not 
unfounded. As reported by historian Daniel Spikes, in early January, Chipenda had returned to Zambia 
where he assembled many of his fighters and crossed into Angola, collecting more of his guerrillas as he 
made his way to Luso, in eastern Angola, where the by now substantial force encamped. This movement 
into eastern Angola “alarmed MPLA leaders in Luanda who feared some units might manage to force their 
way into the capital.” Daniel Spikes, Angola and the Politics of Intervention: From Local Bush War to 
Chronic Crisis in Southern Africa (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1993), 140. The MPLA attack 
on Chipenda’s headquarters is discussed by Spikes as well as Marcum, Exile Politics and Guerrilla 
Warfare (1962-1976), 258, and Colin Legum and Tony Hodges, After Angola: The War over Southern 
Africa (New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1976), 49. On February 22, following the earlier 
February attack, Chipenda, the commander of at least 2,000 seasoned combatants, announced his 
impending merger with the FNLA. In mid-April, he was formally admitted to the FNLA, having been 
voted into its Revolutionary Council and Political Bureau and also elected as the movement’s assistant 
secretary general. Legum and Hodges, After Angola, 49. 



311 


accord which would have prevented it from dominating any future coalition 
government.” 431 

Assistant Secretary Schaufele also emphasized the increasing tendency of the MPLA 
to independently seek a military solution while ignoring both the accord and the series of 
ceasefire among the three factions. He contended, “It was the Soviet decision... to step 
up arms aid to what it apparently regarded as an organization in which it had influence, 
which destroyed Portugal’s effort through the Alvor agreement of January 1975 to 
establish a provisional coalition government embracing the three factions. With the 
prospect of being a minority partner in a postindependence government, and the promise 
of Soviet arms, the MPLA had no incentive to compromise.” 

According to the Ford Administration, the Soviet decision to not only quantitatively, 
but also qualitatively, boost its military support to the MPLA in early 1975 was made in 
December 1974. The decision came to fruition in early March 1975 as a large Soviet 


431 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 9. 

43 ~ Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, February 6, 1976, 174. Schaufele later expanded 
upon his accusatory statement by presenting this chronological narrative of the early 1975 events in Angola 
following the Alvor agreement. Once again justifying the American allocation of “political” funding for 
Roberto and the FNLA, which he noted was to be dispensed (presumably by the CIA) gradually and was 
insignificant in comparison to both the earlier 1974 Soviet military aid, which terminated in January 1975, 
and the massively increased support, which commenced in March, Schaufele stated, “During the skirmishes 
between the FNLA and MPLA in February, and the major battles of March and April, we noticed an 
increasing tendency on the part of the MPLA forces to ignore the cease-fires. . .and to act independently to 
achieve their maximum military goals. From March through May, not only did the quantity of the Soviet 
and Communist bloc arms flow increase, reflecting delivery decisions taken several months earlier, but the 
nature of the weaponry escalated as well, with quantities of large mortars and several armored vehicles 
showing up inside Angola by May.” Ibid., 175. 



312 


airlift and sealift began transporting arms and equipment to the Congo (Brazzaville) for 
transshipment to the MPLA inside Angola. Although the exact amounts and types of 
arms and equipment delivered to the MPLA during the first half of 1975 were not 
precisely known, administration officials claimed they were substantial, especially in 
comparison to the small sum of political funds that the Forty Committee had approved in 
January 1975 for the FNLA. As noted by Schaufele, “We estimate that from the first 6 
months of last year, the U.S.S.R. shipped over a hundred million dollars worth of arms 
and equipment into Angola in support of the MPLA. As you can imagine, the military 


433 At the time of the Clark hearings, the December timeframe for the Soviet decision to increase its arms 
support was not definitively known. However, the Ford Administration estimated that the Kremlin 
probably made its decision sometime prior to the American decision on 22 January 1975, based on the time 
it would require to organize, prepare, schedule and deliver the arms by both aircraft and ships. On 26 
January 1976, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, William Schaufele, testified, “It is 
noteworthy that violence broke out in Luanda in March after large shipments of Soviet arms, thousands of 
infantry weapons, machine guns and bazookas began to arrive there for the MPLA. The U.S.S.R. must 
have begun to assemble and ship this equipment as early as January, the moment when the Alvor accord 
was put into effect.” Congress, House of Representatives, Unites States Policy on Angola, January 26, 
1976, 3. On February 6, before the Senate’s Subcommittee on Africa, he would state that the first new 
deliveries of Soviet arms, which began in March 1975, “reflected a delivery decision of several months 
earlier.” Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, February 6, 1975, 175. In his memoirs, 
Kissinger wrote, “We know now from Soviet documents that the Soviet plan to arm the MPLA in a major 
way had been decided in December 1974, two months before” (the January 22 nd decision of the Forty 
Committee to allocate funds to the FNLA). Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 795. According to Odd Arne 
Westad, the December 1974 date is correct. Based upon his own research of Soviet archival material, he 
wrote, “Moscow in early December drew up an elaborate plan for supplying the MPLA with heavy 
weapons and large amounts of ammunition, using Congo as the point of transit.” Westad, The Global Cold 
War, 224. This assessment is also supported by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, who in their 
own reading of leaked KGB documents, wrote, “In December 1974 the Politburo approved proposals to 
supply the MPLA with heavy weapons and ammunition through Congo (Brazzaville).” Christopher 
Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third 
World (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 450. Many historians have criticized the veracity of this study, 
which is allegedly based on KGB archival materials. However, in this instance, the authors’ account tracks 
with Westad’ s own widely respected research. 



313 


situation of the FNLA and particularly UNITA forces became increasingly desperate last 
summer in the face of massive Soviet arms shipments.” 434 

President Kaunda Visits Washington 

On April 19, 1975, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia paid a visit to the White 
House for a meeting that had been scheduled for some time. A major discussion point of 


434 House of Representatives, Committee on International Relations, United States Policy on Angola , 
January 26, 1976, 3. In the course of my research, I could find no precise, official figures on the total 
amount and types of Soviet, Eastern Bloc, or other nations’ arms and equipment delivered to the MPLA 
during the fall of 1974 or the spring of 1975. One of the problems that administration spokesmen had in 
answering congressional questions on the subject was that the United States had no official representatives 
in the Congo (Brazzaville), the main transshipment point for weaponry destined for the MPLA in Angola 
proper and the Cabinda enclave. This circumstance precluded the collection of first-hand information on 
arms arriving by air into Brazzaville, or by sea into Pointe Noire, the Congo’s seaport. As explained by 
Edward Mulcahy, Schaufele’s deputy in AF, in response to a query from Senator Clark, “I think our figures 
are not wholly accurate insofar as the early part of Soviet assistance to MPLA was delivered to them in the 
form of equipment and training in the Republic of the Congo, where, as you may recall, we closed our 
diplomatic establishment in 1966, and has not yet reopened.” Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, 
Angola, February 6. 1976, 182. Mr. Mulcahy further noted that the American government mainly learned 
about the “fairly liberal inflow” of Soviet weaponry from March to June 1975 from the Portuguese. Ibid., 
183. Complicating this picture even more, some arms reportedly went directly to MPLA strongholds 
within Angola proper, such as the alleged April chartered air delivery of 100 tons of Soviet equipment from 
Dar-es-Salaam (site of the OAU Liberation Committee’s entrepot for aid to southern African liberation 
movements) to Serpa Pinto in southern Angola, then occupied by the MPLA. While William Schaufele 
estimated that for the first six months of 1975, the Soviet Union shipped over 100 million dollars of arms 
and equipment, he gave no further details of the types of equipment delivered or the delivery schedule. In 
testimony, Kissinger identified the types of delivered arms as “thousands of infantry weapons, machine 
guns, bazookas and rockets,” and “mortars and armored vehicles.” Senate, Subcommittee on African 
Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 17. The issue of the amounts and types of Soviet arms deliveries, 
especially during the fall of 1974 and spring-early summer of 1975 is contentious still, and will be 
discussed further in Chapter 7. Open-source reporting on the quantitative and qualitative arms deliveries to 
the MPLA during the March-June 1975 timeframe are variously provided by the previously cited New York 
Times article by Leslie Gelb, “U.S., Soviet, China Reported Aiding Portugal, Angola;” Jiri Valenta, “Soviet 
Decisionmaking on the Intervention in Angola,” in David E. Albright, ed.. Communism in Africa 
(Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1980), 100; “Angola after Independence: Struggle for 
Supremacy,” Conflict Studies, no. 64 (November 1975): 13-14. All three reports give essentially the same 
information. It should be noted that all three also included the arrival of non-Soviet ships, including one 
Algerian, two East German and two Yugoslav merchant vessels. Additionally, as noted above, some of the 
arms and equipment allegedly came from Dar-es-Salaam, not directly from the Soviet Union. 



314 


the Kaunda-Ford talks was the increasingly violent situation in Angola in the spring of 
1975, fueled by the alleged Soviet arms pipeline to the MPLA. Still, the president and 
his chief foreign policy architect had their minds focused on developments of greater 
import. Kissinger wrote, “Indochina was collapsing that very month, Kurdish autonomy 
had just been destroyed, the Portuguese revolution was tilting ever further left, and 
Middle East diplomacy stood stalemated.” 435 

Concerns over these weighty events, as well as Kissinger’s avowal that neither he nor 
the president at that time contemplated American involvement in an emerging crisis “in a 
distant continent heretofore largely insulated from the Cold War,” appeared to preclude 
any action by the United States. Kissinger, however, contends that Kaunda convinced 
both him and the president that the Soviet Union was intervening in Angola through 
massive arms deliveries and requested that the United States act to “oppose this intrusion 
for the sake of Angola’s neighbors.” 436 

During the course of the meeting, Kaunda apparently also persuaded Ford and 
Kissinger that Jonas Savimbi of UNITA was quickly emerging as the compromise leader, 
remarking “We have noted that when the two opposing factions of MPLA and FNLA 


435 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 791. 

436 Ibid. Kissinger’s recollection of Kaunda’ s visit tells us, “No major initiatives were anticipated to result 
from it. Yet a new policy grew quite unexpectedly out of the meeting. Kaunda persuaded Ford that Soviet 
arms deliveries were threatening to help the Angolan Marxist MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation 
of Angola) seize power and that American assistance was essential to frustrate Soviet designs.” Ibid. 



315 


4^7 

attack, the people run toward UNITA forces. This is a good development.” The 
Zambian president added that neither Roberto nor Neto would accept the other as the 
leader of an independent Angola. Both Kaunda and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, 
Vernon Mwaanga, spoke highly of Savimbi, with Mwaanga stating, “Savimbi is not a 
political lightweight. He has grass roots support. He put forward a formula for bringing 
the three parties together.” 

Jean M. Wilkowski, the American Ambassador to Zambia, also attended the April 
meeting. She seconded Mwaaga’s high regards of the UNITA leader. Savimbi “is a very 
impressive leader and quite solid and does not strike me as being self-serving or a loner.” 
President Kaunda joined in the plaudits by informing his American host that, like 
himself, President Mobutu of Zaire and FRELIMO’s Samora Machel (of Mozambique, 
then scheduled for independence in June 1975) were equally impressed with Savimbi. 

The Zambian president concluded the full-court press by reporting that Melo Antunes, 
then Portugal’s moderate foreign minister and a staunch anti-Communist, was also pro- 
Savimbi. Referring to Antunes, Kaunda noted, “He came to Zambia and told us he too 
was impressed with Savimbi. Melo Antunes said without Savimbi we would not have 
reached an accord with the liberation movements for the transition of Angola to 

437 “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: Office Call on the President,” April 19, 1975, p. 6, National 
Security Adviser - Memorandum of Conversation, 1973-1977, April 19, 1975 - Ford, Zambian President 
Kenneth D. Kaunda, Minister of Foreign Affairs Vernon Mwaanga, Box 11, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



316 


independence.” Also, “He was worried about Neto who was supported by the 
Communist Party in Portugal. For this reason, Melo Antunes said he would rather 
support Savimbi.” 438 

The foreign lobbying effort for Savimbi, assisted by the American ambassador in 
Lusaka, was supported by American internal assessments of his rising political star. The 
CIA, which had unsuccessfully sought support for UNITA during the Forty Committee’s 
January deliberation over aid to both Holden Roberto and Savimbi, reported the 
following on the latter’s late 1974 to early 1975 activities. “During the past several 
months, Jonas Savimbi... has emerged as the most active and politically skillful of 
Angola’s three nationalist leaders.” During what the Agency described as a “whistle-stop 
tour” through central Angola (UNITA’s traditional Ovimbundu homeland), Savimbi 
impressed his audiences, including representatives from the U.S. consulate and “the 
notable participation of whites,” with his effective, non-ideological, non-controversial 


438 Ibid., pp. 4-5. Kissinger would later recount that Kaunda had exaggerated some portions of his 
conversation with President Ford, especially his assertion that the four presidents of Zaire, Tanzania, 
Zambia and Mozambique (Samora Machel upon its independence) were unanimously in agreement that 
Savimbi was the best, if not the only, option to lead an independent Angola. Still, as the former Secretary 
of State relates, “None of this changed the basic challenge, which was the intensity of Soviet intervention 
on a scale not seen in Africa for fifteen years.” Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 798. 



317 


speeches. As a result, “Savimbi reportedly is now beginning to receive sizable financial 
assistance from well-to-do whites in central Angola .” 439 

In the aftermath of Kaunda’s visit, both President Ford and his Secretary of State 
concluded that the alleged infusion of Soviet arms to the Marxist MPLA threatened to 
change the on-the-ground balance of forces, especially in and around Luanda, the 
Angolan capital city . 440 Their major concern, as they both contended, was not the 
political participation of the MPLA in Angola - or even an all-out victory by the MPLA- 
as long as it came without major external support. As Kissinger frequently pointed out, 
the United States had recognized the post-colonial regimes of Guinea-Bissau and 
Mozambique, both governed by left-oriented parties. ‘‘The problem. . . was not so much 
Marxism as the projection of Soviet military power into Africa. When the vocally 
Marxist FRELIMO took over Mozambique from Portugal, we had immediately 


439 Central Intelligence Agency, “Staff Notes: Middle East, Africa and South Asia,” no. 0423/75, February 
5, 1975, p. 3, CIA Records Search Tool, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD 
(hereafter referred to as CREST). 

440 Kissinger frequently alluded to the control of the capital city as crucial to the legitimacy and credibility 
of any party aspiring to govern a country. Referring to Luanda and the surrounding area as the traditional 
ethnic base of the MPLA, he noted, for example, “The Marxist MPLA. . . was strongest in the capital city of 
Luanda and the surrounding areas. And since control of the capital where the foreign embassies were 
located was symbolically important in the race for foreign recognition, the MPLA had an edge.” Kissinger, 
Years of Renewal, 794. In his options briefing to President Ford during a meeting of the National Security 
Council convened to discuss the Angolan situation, he went out of his way to emphasize the importance of 
the capital. “The history of Africa has shown that a nation’s only focal point is the capital, and whoever 
has the capital has a claim on international support. If Neto can get Luanda, and drive the others out, he 
will have a power base and gradually gain support of other Africans.” “Minutes of a National Security 
Council Meeting Concerning Soviet Arms Shipments to Rebel Forces in Angola” (Washington, D.C., June 
27, 1975), p. 3 [database on-line]; available from Declassified Documents Reference System. 



318 


recognized it and began the process of establishing diplomatic relations despite its 
ideological coloration. We had reacted in the same manner when the post independence 
movement in formerly Portuguese Guinea-Bissau veered sharply to the left .” 441 Although 
both FRELIMO and the PAIGC had received some Soviet support, the two had largely 
carried out their successful liberation struggles without significant Communist support. 

In contrast, as Kissinger claimed, it was massive, unprovoked Soviet external 
intervention that seemed to be turning the tide in favor of its client and portended 
Moscow’s domination of any future MPLA government. Both he and President Ford 
worried that if the United States stood by while Soviet arms determined the outcome of 
the intensifying military struggle for supremacy, the “fragile governments” throughout 
the region, for their own security and survival, might seek accommodation with the 
imposing threat of unchallenged Soviet power . 442 

According to Kissinger, Kaunda’s appeal for American action, coming as it did on the 
heels of earlier entreaties from Zaire, significantly influenced the White House’s thinking 
on the mounting Angolan crisis and spurred action. In late April, Kissinger set in motion 
several actions that would eventually lead to the president’s July decision to assist both 
the FNLA and UNITA in countering a militarily ascendant MPLA empowered by Soviet 
arms, and by at least June, allegedly assisted by Cuban trainers and advisers. He tells us 

441 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 794. 

442 Ibid., 798. 



319 


that he first directed that the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs to prepare an 
assessment of the Angolan situation, laying out and discussing all the options for an 
American policy in Angola. He then asked the CIA to prepare an assistance package for 
Savimbi. 443 

Who Did What, and When: Part Four 

The final segment of the Ford Administration’s official account of the reasons for the 
American intervention in Angola takes us from late March 1975 to the president’s July 
18 th authorization of the CIA’s covert operation, IAFEATURE. As previously 
discussed, in February and early March, the MPLA allegedly began attacking the FNLA. 
The military strikes increased in severity in late March, and then intensified more, both in 
violence and frequency, throughout April to Junel975 - even as Soviet arms deliveries 
allegedly escalated during the same time frame. 

In testimony, Kissinger pointed out this a priori relationship. “It is no coincidence 
that major violence broke out in March 1975 when large shipments of Soviet arms began 


443 Ibid. The Forty Committee considered the aid package for UNIT A, prepared by the CIA and including 
both weapons and financial assistance, sometime during June. While the committee did not immediately 
recommend approval, the CIA’s proposal probably became the basis for Ford’s 18 July decision to assist 
UNITA as well as the FNLA with both money and arms. For a brief discussion of the suggested support 
for Savimbi prior to the president’s July decision, see, “Talking Points for Secretary Kissinger, National 
Security Council Meeting on Angola,’’ June 27, 1975, p. 4., National Security Adviser, National Security 
Council Meeting File, 1974-1977, National Security Council Meeting, June 27, 1975, Box 2, Gerald R. 
Ford Library; “Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting Concerning Soviet Arms Shipments to 
Rebel Forces in Angola,’’ p. 5. In his 1999 memoirs, Kissinger wrote that the CIA recommendation for 
support to Savimbi came to a total of $6 million dollars, “a paltry sum compared to the Soviet 
undertaking.” Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 806. 



320 


to arrive. . .On March 23, the first of repeated military clashes between the MPLA and 
FNLA occurred. They increased in frequency in April, May and June, when deliveries of 
Communist arms and equipment. . .escalated by air and sea. In May, the MPLA forced 
the FNLA out of the areas north and east of Luanda, and, in June, took effective control 
of Cabinda.” 444 

Havana allegedly added fuel to the already incendiary situation. According to 
administration officials, in late May or early June, Fidel Castro, whose regime even then 
was participating in secret, unofficial negotiations with the United States aimed at 
improving Cuban- American relations, entered the growing Angolan maelstrom by 
deploying a substantial Cuban military advisory group to Angola. As noted by Kissinger 
in Senate hearings, “If statements by Cuban leaders are to be believed, a large Cuban 
military training mission program began in Angola in June, and Cuban advisors were 
probably there before then.” 445 


444 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 17. 

445 Ibid. There is a continuing debate over exactly when the first Cuban advisory contingent arrived. Based 
on his review of Cuban documents, Piero Gleijeses contends the first group, which was requested by Neto 
in January 1975, did not start arriving in Angola until late August; by 2 September it consisted of twenty- 
nine members whose primary mission was to plan for the arrival and deployment of the follow-on advisers 
and trainers. The latter began their deployment to Angola between 16 and 20 September, most onboard 
three ships. Of this later deployment, some 142 arrived in the Congo (Brazzaville) in early October with 
the purpose of establishing a training center in Cabinda. The remaining contingent arrived in Angola 
proper, also in early October. By early October, then, Gleijeses argues that there were a total of 480 
advisers/trainers in Angola and Cabinda, forming what the Cubans referred to as their MMCA (Military 
Mission of Cuba in Angola). Although they were deployed principally to train the MPLA, they were also 
expected to fight alongside the Angolans, if necessary. Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 254-266. 
Contradicting Gleijeses’ argument, but supporting the administration’s contention on the late May or early 



321 


Although the Cubans were initially labeled as Soviet proxies, or Soviet Gurkhas, as 
Daniel Moynihan, the American ambassador to the UN called them, new evidence has 
shown that the first Cuban deployment, as well as the latter arrival of combatants, was 
strictly a Cuban initiative. In his memoirs, Kissinger corrected this mistake by noting 
that although Washington thought at the time that Castro was acting as a Soviet surrogate 
to pay back Moscow for its support to Cuba, “Documents of the period prove this 
judgment to have been mistaken. . .Quite on his own initiative, he sent a few hundred 
instructors to Angola in May .” 446 

The administration argued that the establishment of the first Cuban Military Mission 
in Angola (MMCA) facilitated the MPLA’s ability to employ the delivered Soviet arms, 
which soon began to tip the balance on the ground in favor of the MPLA. The Popular 
Movement’s increasing military strength finally led it, for the first time, to attack 
UNITA’s small contingent in Luanda in early June. As reported by the CIA, UNITA, 


June arrival of the first Cuban advisers, are various media reports that cite both Cuban and Soviet officials. 
Don Oberdorfer wrote that Cuban Deputy Prime, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, remarked in early January 1976 
that Cuba had sent 230 advisors to Angola in the late spring of 1975. David Binder quoted Soviet officials 
as acknowledging, in late January 1976, “Cuban military advisers had gone to Angola last spring to train 
recruits of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola.” Don Oberdorfer, “Cuban Intervention in 
Angola Intrigues World Capitals,” Washington Post, February 18, 1976, sec. A, p. 6; David Binder, 
“Kissinger Believes Cuba ‘Exports’ Revolution Again,” New York Times , February 5, 1976, 12. Gleijeses’ 
depiction of the timing and size of the MMCA, as well as the later deployments of actual combatants 
beginning in November 1975, is probably the most accurate accounting of Cuban involvement in Angola, 
given his access to Cuban documents and officials actually involved in the operation. Obviously, the Ford 
Administration did not have the benefit of such evidence during the time when its spokesmen were 
defending American involvement in Angola to both the American Congress and the public. 

446 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 786-787. 



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which had tried to remain outside the MPLA-FNLA struggle because of its weak military 
position, now fought back, contributing to the increasing level of violence. 447 

Precursors to the American Decision to Intervene 

Even as Cuban advisers and Soviet arms began to enhance the military fortunes of the 
MPLA, which forced the FNLA out of Cabinda in early June, the CIA reported that 
Mobutu’s support for the FNLA had fallen off “because of Zaire’s financial difficulties.” 
As a result, Roberto’s goal of an additional 10,000 trained men ready to augment the 
estimated 8-10,000 already in Angola would probably not be met. The Agency 
concluded its assessment by noting that while Mobutu was strongly opposed to the 
prospect of the Soviet- supported MPLA gaining control over Luanda, his economic 
difficulties appeared to preclude his providing the FNLA what it needed to offset the 
MPLA’s growing military strength. 448 


447 Central Intelligence Agency, “Staff Notes: Middle East, Africa, South Asia,” No. 0689/75, June 10, 
1975, p. 1, CREST. 

448 Ibid., pp. 3-4. Zaire’s increasingly dire financial difficulties resulted from a variety of sources, most 
notably the precipitous decline in the world price of copper, its primary export, widespread corruption and 
economic mismanagement. The intermittent closure of the Benguela Railroad both before and during the 
civil war, the main artery for transporting Zaire’s exports to the Atlantic Ocean seaport of Lobito, 
undoubtedly exacerbated Zaire’s economic woes. African specialist Edouard Bustin summarized the 
situation thusly. “By 1975, the combined effects of declining copper prices, corruption, mismanagement 
and misguided economic nationalism had brought Zaire to the brink of bankruptcy. Edouard Bustin, “The 
Foreign Policy of the Republic of Zaire,” in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social 
Science, vol. 489, International Affairs in Africa, eds., Gerald J. Bender, Richard D. Lambert, and Allan W. 
Heston (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1987): 72. 



323 


The month of June proved to be pivotal in the American decision-making process on 
Angola. By mid-month, the deteriorating situation in Angola began to seriously worry 
the Secretary of State, not only because of the growing MPLA advantage, especially in 
Luanda and its environs, 449 and Zaire’s declining support for the FNLA, but also because 
the CIA and State Department had been telling him for months that Holden Roberto’s 
FNLA was the most militarily powerful of the three movements and needed little, if any, 
additional support to at least hold his own against the MPLA. 450 

Next door in Zaire, an alleged coup attempt against President Mobutu, both a long- 
time American ally in sub-Saharan Africa and the major FNLA supporter, added a new 
dimension and increased sense of urgency to the Angolan Matrix. According to Elise 
Forbes Pachter, the alleged coup was first announced in the government-controlled 
newspaper Elima on 15 June. The following day, the same newspaper provided further 
details, including the allegation that the United States had financed and directed the coup 


449 In June, besides the MPLA’s somewhat tenuous advantage in the oil-rich Cabinda enclave, the 
movement was also successful in expelling the FNLA from areas north and east of Luanda. This tactical 
victory enabled it to block the National Front’s logistic supply lines into the capital from both northern 
Angola, where Roberto’s forces were securely anchored in their traditional Bakongo ethnic region, and 
Zaire. This information is taken from CIA Director William Colby’s overview on the military situation in 
Angola for the June Senior Review Group (SRG) meeting on Angola and Zaire. Central Intelligence 
Agency, “DCI Briefing for 19 June SRG Meeting: Angola,” June 19, 1975, pp. 1-3, CREST. 

450 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 806. Kissinger expressed his growing concern about the Angolan situation 
to President Ford on June 6, emphatically stating, “We have to give attention to Angola. My people want 
to ‘let the democratic process’ work. That is total nonsense. There is none.” “Memorandum of 
Conversation,” June 6, 1975, p. 4 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, 
Kissinger Transcripts. 



324 


makers, identified only as a group of military and civilian conspirators. Mobutu’s 
subsequent letter to Elima ’s editor partially confirmed the paper’s allegation on American 
involvement. As noted by Pachter, “Mobutu did not name the United States except by 
the description a ‘great foreign power’ and did not accuse it of using the Zairian army, 
but simply paying off some officers.” 451 On June 19, in the aftermath of the alleged 
coup, Mobutu declared American ambassador Dean Hinton persona non grata (PNG); 
the next day he was expelled from the country. 

Elise Pachter described the American response to the Zairian allegations of American 
involvement and Hinton’s expulsion as “benign.” She also noted, “There was never any 


451 Elise Forbes Pachter, “Our Man in Kinshasa: U.S. Relation with Mobutu, 1970-1983; Patron-Client 
Relations in the International Sphere” (Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1987), 224, 234-235. 

William Colby noted in his briefing to the SRG on 19 June that the Zairian foreign minister “told Hinton 
there was clear evidence of US involvement in a coup plot against Mobutu,” and that of the middle- and 
high-ranking officers arrested as part of the plot, two had received training in the United States and one was 
a recent military attache in Washington. Central Intelligence Agency, “Backup for 19 June SRG Meeting,” 
19 June 1975, p. 1, CREST. The Zairian foreign minister’s reference to “Hinton,” is to the then American 
ambassador in Kinshasa, Dean Hinton. The DCI went on to speculate on Mobutu’s motivations for his 
coup allegations. First, he might be trying to “erase his pro-US image” and assert his independence from 
the United States, which, according to some reports, he considered as an undependable ally. Secondly, 
Mobutu might have been over-reacting to a number of events. The CIA’s director specifically made note 
of the following circumstances: Mobutu’s decreasing ability to affect the situation in Angola and his 
failure in convincing the U.S. to become more involved through increased support to Holden Roberto; 
Zaire’s stressed economic and financial state and its largely unsuccessful attempts to secure major foreign 
assistance; widespread unrest within the Zairian Army because of the deteriorating economic situation 
which may have prompted the president to manufacture a plot “to warn away potential conspirators.” Ibid., 
pp. 2-3. Any one, or all, of the reasons mentioned by Colby could be valid. They, as well as additional 
motivations for Mobutu’s actions, are discussed in depth in Pachter, “Our Man in Kinshasa,” especially 
Chapter 5, “Leeway and Leverage: The Expulsion of Ambassador Hinton,” 200-246. 



325 


459 

thought of sanctions; there was not even any effort to cool relations.” “ While her 
comments are apparently valid, the lack of punitive action did not obscure the fact that 
there was considerable consternation and uncertainty in Washington about just what the 
American response should be. 

Sensing the gravity of the situation, Henry Kissinger was quick to convene a meeting. 
On June 18, two days before Hinton’s expulsion, he met with some of his closest advisers 
in the State Department, including Edward Mulcahy, who was the acting AF as Nathaniel 
Davis was then on an East African trip. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss both 
the Zairian situation and the equally important and related events in Angola, as part of the 
discussion focused on the effects that a potential deterioration of American-Zairian 
relations might have on the struggle for power in Angola. 

Although Hinton had not yet been declared persona non grata, Kissinger apparently 
believed that the ambassador was a major part of the problem, and that he had to leave 
Kinshasa. 453 Under Secretary of State Joseph Sisco and Walt Cutler, the State 


452 Pachter, “Our Man in Kinshasa,” 236. The author further explained that Zairian informants described 
the American reaction thusly: “The United States ‘came running.’” Ibid. American-Zairian relations had 
gone through similar rocky periods during the ten-year presidency of Mobutu, including the expulsion, but 
not official PNG, of a previous American ambassador in 1966. And, as noted by Pachter, “For those on the 
alert in Washington, it had not gone unnoticed that Mobutu had taken the precaution of removing his own 
ambassador before the events in June,” replacing him with a charge. Ibid., 234. 

453 Department of State, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, vol. E-6, Documents on Africa, 1973-1978, 
“Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: Africa,” June 18, 1975, p. 1 [database on-line]; available from 
http://www.State.gov. Kissinger set the tone for the serious nature of the meeting by first telling those 
attending that the United States could not possibly consider breaking diplomatic relations with “a country 



326 


Department’s Director for Central Africa, concurred with Kissinger’s assessment, with 
Cutler arguing that Hinton was the proximate cause for Mobutu’s coup allegations. 
Referring back to January 1975 and the nomination of Nathaniel Davis as the Assistant 
Secretary for African Affairs, Cutler noted that Hinton (then having served in Kinshasa 
for six months) had adamantly supported the decision, despite widespread Africa 
opposition and Mobutu’s own personal condemnation. 454 Cutler opined, “That’s when 
the well poisoning started.” 455 

Kissinger, supported by those in attendance, decided to use former ambassador to 
Zaire, Sheldon Vance, accompanied by Cutler, to visit Zaire for a heart-to-heart talk with 


adjoining Angola.” Later, after he pronounced that Hinton had to leave the country as at least a first step in 
repairing the American-Zairian relationship, he further added, “we cannot ram an unacceptable ambassador 
down Mobutu’s throat.” Ibid., p. 2. Besides Kissinger and Mulcahy, those attending the meeting included 
Deputy Secretary of State, Robert Ingersoll, Under Secretary Joseph Sisco, and Walt Cutler, Country 
Director for Central Africa (as well as note taker Jerry Bremer). 

454 In late January 1975, Mobutu gave a speech in Kinshasa at the annual meeting of the American-African 
Institute, an organization dedicated to furthering relations between Africa and the United States. According 
to Pachter, “The crux of the speech was Africa’s surprise at Easum’s ‘eviction’ and fear of what was 
signaled by the appointment of his successor, Nathaniel Davis, who had been ambassador to Chile when 
Allende was overthrown.” Pachter, “Our Man in Kinshasa,” 207. Hinton’s close relationship with Davis 
dated back to Chile when the former headed the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 
that country. Hinton, like Davis, was irrevocably, if mistakenly, linked to the successful American 
endeavor to undermine the Allende government. Complicating Hinton’s task in Kinshasa, his marching 
orders from Washington, D.C. included a tough message for Mobutu to get his country’s economic affairs 
in order. None of this sat well with the Zairian president who mostly avoided meeting with the American 
ambassador. This adversarial relationship contrasted with the close connection that Mobutu had enjoyed 
with Hinton’s predecessor, Sheldon Vance. Ibid., 218. On the same subject, see Crawford Young, “The 
Portuguese Coup and Zaire’s Southern African Policy,” in Southern Africa since the Portuguese Coup , ed. 
John Seiler (Boulder: Westview Press, Inc., 1980): 208 

455 Department of State, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, vol. E-6, “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: 
Africa,” June 18, 1975. p. 2. In late 1975, Cutler replaced Hinton as American Ambassador in Kinshasa. 

In the interim between Hinton’s departure and Cutler’s arrival, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Lannon 
Walker, represented the American government in Zaire. 



327 


the Zairian president. Vance’s close relationship with the latter no doubt influenced the 
decision. As Cutler remarked, Sheldon Vance is “an old friend and confident of Mobutu 
and Mobutu still speaks highly of him.” 456 Kissinger made it clear that he wanted Vance 
and Cutler to assure Mobutu that the United Sates valued the Zairian- American 
relationship and that, like Mobutu, the United States was deeply concerned about the 
events in Angola. 

In response to Mulcahy’s previous observation that Mobutu believed the United States 
was against him because of his opposition to the Davis appointment and the lack of 
American support for Holden Roberto, for example, Kissinger commented, “I want some 
serious talk with Mobutu on Angola. . .1 want to hear what he wants us to do there.” 
Somewhat later in the meeting, he told Cutler to have frank discussions with Mobutu on 
the Angolan situation, and to tell Mobutu, “we’re not sure what we can do, but we want 
to know what his views are.” 457 The meeting concluded shortly thereafter, but it appears 
from the discussion that the Secretary of State was finding it extremely difficult to 
determine what course the United States should pursue in Angola, but that the issue could 
be used to facilitate a mending of fences with Mobutu during the forthcoming Vance- 
Cutler trip to Kinshasa. 


456 

457 


Ibid. 

Ibid., pp. 2, 


3 . 



328 


The First Vance Trip to Zaire 

On June 20, Mulcahy presented Kissinger with a memorandum detailing the terms of 
reference for the Vance (and Cutler) visit to Zaire, which by then had been agreed to by 
President Mobutu. The objectives of the trip were to restore normalcy to American- 
Zairian as soon as possible by rebutting the “faulty evidence” surrounding the alleged 
coup, to reassure Mobutu of continued American friendship, and to deter him from taking 
further actions against American interests in Zaire. To accomplish this, the terms of 
reference provided the American emissaries with guidance on the types of assistance, 
including security, financial, PL 480 (food aid), and USAID loans, the United States was 
prepared to offer to smooth the ruffled Zairian feathers. 

Vance was specifically instructed to discuss Angola as part of his demarche with the 
Zairian president, and to listen, learn and seek out Mobutu’s views. He was further 
directed to “make clear our own concern regarding Angola and, if it is apparent that 
Mobutu’s present interests are compatible with our own, solicit his suggestions on precise 
ways by which the US and GOZ might cooperate to promote those interests.” Vance was 
to also “make clear that US policies on Angola are now under review and that his views 

4 CO 

and suggestions will constitute an important factor in the formulation of our policies.” 


458 Department of State, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, vol. E-6, “Action Memorandum, Subject: Vance 
Mission to Zaire: Terms of Reference,” p. 2 [database on-line]; available from http:// www.State.gov. 



329 


Vance and Cutler departed for Kinshasa on or about June 20 th and had returned to 
Washington, D.C. by June 27, apparently having succeeded, at least temporarily, in 
allaying Mobutu’s coup concerns and convincing him of American friendship, good will 
and intentions. As directed, they had also informed Mobutu of Secretary Kissinger’s 
personal desire in hearing his ideas about Angola. 459 

Some of the details of the visit (as well as the second visit in July and third in 
September, which are discussed in the next chapter) are available in administration 
papers that have been made public. Based on those documents, the following narrative is 
a brief summary of the discussions and results of the first Vance-Cutler visit to Zaire - a 
diplomatic endeavor that proved critical to President Ford’s July 18 decision to intervene 
in the Angolan crisis. 

While in Kinshasa, Vance and Cutler met at least three times Mobutu and once with 
Holden Roberto. Mobutu led off the first meeting with Vance on June 23 with a long 
description of the coup details, including his belief that both Zairians and Americans had 


459 My assessment that the first trip went well is based on an American Embassy, Kinshasa, telegram 
received at the State Department on June 30, three days after Vance’s return. The cable reported Mobutu’s 
chief adviser, Bisengimana, as having remarked that Washington’s decision to send Vance on this mission 
“was perfect, and that he believed things would work out well. He was referring to US-Zairian relations.” 
In Angolan-related matters, Bisengimana “wondered why US had not shown more interest in helping 
African liberation movements earlier and insisted that with Soviets pouring in aid to Neto, it was now a 
race against the clock.” The embassy further noted that Bisengimana was referring in this instance to the 
“urgent need for help for Holden.” “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 5888, Subject: Further 
Demarche by Bisengimana,” 301 130Z July 1975, p. 1, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country 
Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegrams to SecState -EXDIS, Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary. 



330 


been involved. Still, he informed his diplomatic guests, and old friend Sheldon Vance, 
that while he could not forget this factor, he forgave the United States and had decided 
“to pardon, because our relations have been so very close and the US has been by far 
most important helper of Zaire since independence.” 460 

The subject then turned to Angola, which dominated the subsequent meetings. 
However, Zaire’s declining economic and financial situation and the American assistance 
Mobutu believed he needed to begin to rectify it were interwoven throughout the 
Angolan discussions from 23 to 25 June. This shows that the two issues were closely 
related, if for no other reason than the fact that Mobutu’s material support for Holden 
Roberto had decreased simultaneously with Zaire’s growing fiscal crisis. As Mobutu told 
Vance, the only support of consequence that Roberto was receiving came from Zaire and 
the PRC, but that “Zaire’s stack of weapons are low and money currently very scarce 
while Communist China is a long way off.” He added that although Roberto had fifteen 
thousand men in Zaire and others in Angola, they were not adequately equipped, 
“certainly not comparably with those of Neto.” Meanwhile, “arms and money from the 
Soviet Union and even Yugoslavia were pouring in for Neto through Brazzaville and 
directly into Angola.” 


460 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 5605, Subject: Breakfast with Mobutu,” 231550Z June 1975, 
p. 2, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegrams 
to SecState - NODIS (1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary. 



331 


Mobutu emphasized that it would be very serious for Zaire if the Soviets controlled 
Angola, “as they would if Neto became the master of the country.” However, he added 
that it was not too late for the United States to provide assistance since independence was 
not scheduled until November, but that enough time to do something was running out 
quickly. 461 

In the second meeting on June 24, at least as reported by Vance, the political and 
military situation in Angola was the sole subject of discussion. Mobutu remarked that the 
elections scheduled for October 31, 1975 would not resolve the Angolan crisis, but he 
was still confident that Holden Roberto would win the elections. Noting that Savimbi 
was emerging as a strong compromise candidate for the Angolan presidency, a carry-over 
from the previous days’ discussions, Mobutu stated that he believed Neto would not 
accept a Roberto electoral victory and that he would move to prevent Holden from 
assuming leadership. “At that point Mobutu, together with other African leaders who 
might join him, will step in to press for Savimbi as a compromise.” 462 Mobutu’s opinion 
on Savimbi, then, was essentially a reiteration of President Kaunda’s argument to 
President Ford and Kissinger in April that the UNITA leader was the best man to back for 
the presidency given the continuing deep animosity between Roberto and Neto. 


461 Ibid., pp. 2-3. 

462 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 5644, Subject: Second Discussion with Mobutu on Angola,” 
241449Z June 1975, p. 2, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State 
Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



332 


That evening, at the insistence of Mobutu, Vance met with Holden Roberto. Vance 
recalled that he had known the FNLA leader during his time in Kinshasa as the American 
ambassador. Their discussion was essentially a replay of the previous Vance-Mobutu 
talks, although Roberto, true to form, spent some time castigating Agostinho Neto of the 
MPLA, accusing him of continually trying to undermine the Alvor process and 
attempting to sabotage the scheduled elections by arming civilian MPLA supporters who 
created disorder throughout the country. 

In contrast, he professed his own support for Alvor and the electoral process, but 
predicted elections would not take place unless the MPLA’s aggression, fueled by the 
“heavy” influx of increasingly sophisticated Communist weaponry, could be checked. 
Roberto’s main point, which sometimes got lost in his rather lengthy soliloquy, was that 
the situation in Angola for the FNLA, which had parity in numbers and superior training, 
but inferior weapons, had become “grave.” He then personally appealed for American 
and other non-Communist support. While Vance noted that he did not specifically ask 
for arms, “the implication was clear... He wants military support.” 463 

The third meeting with Mobutu, apparently on the 25 th of June, returned to the 
discussion of the alleged coup. The two covered ground already gone over during the 

463 Vance reported his talk with Roberto, which is summarized above, in “American Embassy Kinshasa 
Telegram 5720, Subject: Meeting with Holden Roberto,” 251939Z June 1975, p. 1, National Security 
Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS 
(1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



333 


first meeting, that is, Mobutu was prepared to forgive but not forget what he still believed 
was American involvement. As Vance prepared to depart, Mobutu told him that he 
hoped Vance would be able to return to Kinshasa, “after the Department has had a chance 
to consider his recommendations regarding Angola and the temporary financial assistance 
he believes his government needs.” 464 

The Vance-Cutler team subsequently left the country. They had returned to 
Washington by June 27, when they, along with Ed Mulcahy representing AF (Davis had 
still not returned from his second African trip), briefed Henry Kissinger on their 
mission. 465 The two advised Kissinger that Mobutu was very worried about an MPLA 
victory, as it would mean a Communist-dominated government along Zaire’s long border 
with Angola. Consequently, he had requested US assistance to defeat the MPLA and said 


464 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram, Subject: Third Meeting with Mobutu; Abortive Coup,” 
251313Z June 1975, p. 4, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State 
Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary. 

465 Mobutu’s entreaties to the American diplomats on the financial assistance he believed he needed to 
steady his listing ship of state were successful. Following Vance’s first visit to Kinshasa, and shortly 
before he departed for his second trip on or about 18 July 1975, Kissinger approved a comprehensive 
economic package for Zaire, which the State Department had prepared upon his request following the 
Vance-Cutler debriefing. On July 19, President Ford approved the recommended $50 million assistance 
program as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 76 Foreign Aid budget. “Memorandum for Brent Scowcroft, 
Subject: Economic Assistance to Zaire,” July 9, 1975, p. 1, National Security Adviser - Presidential 
Country Files for Africa, 1974-1977, Africa - General, Zaire (1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary. The 
memorandum noted that Kissinger “wanted to be able to equip Sheldon Vance with such an offer for his 
next trip to Kinshasa.” Underscoring Kissinger’s sense of urgency over the Zairian situation, when he 
forwarded the assistance package to Ford on July 17, he pointed out that although Vance would urge 
Zaire’s adoption of certain IMF-recommended reforms, “he would be authorized to provide US aid without 
condition.” “Memorandum for the President, Subject: Mr. Lynn’s Memo to the President Concerning a 
Foreign Aid Budget Amendment for Zaire - Add-on,” 17 July 1975, p. 1, National Security Adviser - 
Presidential Country Files for Africa, 1974-1977, Africa - General, Zaire (1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford 
Library. 



334 


he would be willing to commit some of his own forces assuming forthcoming American 
support . 466 

Having heard this, Kissinger asked Vance if the pro-Westem factions could defeat the 
MPLA with American assistance. Vance’s response was that the Zairians “think it can be 
done,” but that it would take close advice by the United States. Vance then offered up his 
own opinion that that he believed the minimum American objective was to prevent an 
MPLA victory, but Kissinger responded that if the United States were to involve itself, 
“we should try to win .” 467 

A Month of Meetings 

With Angola apparently drifting toward full-scale civil war, at least in the CIA’s own 
analysis of the situation, and American relations with Zaire seemingly coming 


466 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 805. 

467 Ibid., 805-806. It should come as no surprise that Kissinger favored a victory in Angola for the 
American-backed factions, given his appetite for scoring “wins” in foreign policy, especially over the 
Soviet Union or any left-leaning opposition, and the recent American defeat in Southeast Asia. Still, he 
believed that the Democratic Congress, especially the oversight committees that had to be briefed on the 
covert Angolan program, would not support a military approach to the conflict. The White House’s 
perception of this congressional attitude influenced the Forty Committee’s formal decision on support for 
Roberto and Savimbi. In its July 14 meeting, the Committee approved the CIA’s covert plan, but officially 
ruled that the objective was to establish a balance of power on the ground as a “prelude to negotiations.” 
Ibid., 808. Kissinger admits he disagreed with the official Forty Committee ruling on the objective, but 
states that he accepted it because of the congressional anti-military sentiment. “My preferred strategy was 
to win, as I told the two emissaries on June 27. But the eight committees of the McGovernite Congress that 
had to be consulted would never have approved. . .so we adopted a strategy to achieve a stalemate on the 
ground by arming Savimbi and Roberto and then going public with pressure on the Soviet Union to stop its 
arms supply. Ibid. 



335 


unhinged, 468 on 19 June, Kissinger convened the Senior Review Group to consider both 
Angola and the related Zairian situation. 469 The starting point for the meeting was a 
review of the “Response to National Security Study Memorandum 224, United States 
Policy toward Angola,” which had been prepared by an interagency task group headed by 
Nathaniel Davis and submitted to Kissinger on June 13. 470 

As requested in the tasking document, the finished study detailed several options. The 
first recommended the United States adopt a neutral stance. The second proposed an 
American diplomatic effort urging restraint by all parties to the conflict and encouraging 
Portugal to play a stronger role. The third advocated an increase in American support for 


468 The CIA began an early June assessment of the Angolan situation by noting, “The Popular Movement 
for the Liberation of Angola and the National Front for the Liberation of Angola, the principal nationalist 
groups in the transitional government, may be edging Angola toward civil war. The two groups have 
clashed repeatedly during the past two months in northern Angola, as well as in Luanda and Cabinda. The 
Popular Movement appears determined to establish military superiority over its long-standing rival.” 
Central Intelligence Agency, “Staff Notes: Middle East, Africa, South Asia,” No. 0689/75, June 10, 1975, 
p. 1, CREST. 

469 President Nixon and Henry Kissinger, desiring to consolidate all decision making in the White House 
and to decrease the importance of both the State and Defense Department in the process, reorganized the 
Executive branch early in Nixon’s first term. The new system continued into the Ford Administration. In 
addition to the Forty Committee, also chaired by Kissinger, they created the National Security Council’s 
Senior Review Group (SRG), having decided that the full NSC would not be the principal forum for 
considering most foreign policy issues. According to Walter Isaacson, the SRG became Kissinger’s main 
source of power over the bureaucracy. It purpose was to determine what issues should reach the president 
- and when. For a thorough discussion of the reorganization of the American national security apparatus 
during the Nixon presidency, see Isaacson, Kissinger, especially Chapter 10, “Kissinger’s Empire,” 183- 
211 . 

470 Upon Davis’ return from his first African trip, which lasted from 5 to 19 May and included five major 
states in West Africa, Kissinger had tasked Davis, via the formal National Security Study Memorandum 
process, with heading a National Security Council Interdepartmental Task Force on Angola. Its efforts 
resulted in “The Response to NSSM 224.” 



336 

the anti-MPLA factions. 471 However, the Secretary of State was not pleased with the 
results, having previously remarked, in his 18 June meeting with Sisco, Mulcahy and 
Cutler, that the NSSM “is so phrased that if anything is done it won’t be any agency’s 
fault.” 472 

Perhaps for this reason, the June 19 th SRG meeting ended without any 
recommendations as to what course the United States should pursue on Angola. 

However, Kissinger, chairing the SRG in his role as Assistant to the President for 
National Security Affairs, asked a number of questions that apparently went unanswered 
- or perhaps only partially answered - at the meeting. As a result, he requested that the 
Davis task force submit a special memorandum in response to the specific inquiries. That 
memorandum was subsequently submitted on 25 June, and Kissinger probably used the 
document as input to his talking points paper for the June 27 th meeting of the full 

470 

National Security Council, as the wording of both documents is very similar. 


471 The three options are discussed in the Pike Committee Report and by Nathaniel Davis in “The Angola 
Decision of 1975: A Personal Memoir,” Foreign Affairs 57, no. 1 (Fall 1978): 111-113. See also 
Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect , 408, for further discussion of the options. 

472 Department of State, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, vol. E-6 , “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: 
Africa,” June 18, 1975, p. 4. 

473 Department of State, “Memorandum for Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, The White House, 

Subject: Special Sensitive Memorandum Regarding Response to NSSM 224: ‘United States Policy 
Toward Angola,’” June 25, 1975 [Database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive. 

The cover sheet to the memorandum, on State Department letterhead, read, “Transmitted herewith is a 
special sensitive memorandum that has been prepared by the NSC/AF IG in response to questions posed by 
the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs during the Senior Review Group meeting on 
June 19, 1975.” Kissinger was not the only SRG attendee whose questions went largely unanswered. 
Deputy Secretary of Defense William Clements apparently raised the issue of the nexus between the 



337 


On June 27, the same day as the Vance-Cutler debriefing, the full National Security 
Council met to review the options, as outlined in the Davis task force study on American 
policy toward Angola. After Director of Central Intelligence William Colby’s 
intelligence update, the president asked Kissinger for a briefing on the options. Before 
doing so, Kissinger first pointed out his disagreement with Colby over the significance of 
controlling the capital, a matter that the DCI had downplayed in his own briefing. 474 
Questioning Colby’s assessment of the issue, Kissinger presciently observed, “The 
history of Africa has shown that a nation’s only focal point is the capital, and whoever 
has the capital has a claim on international support. If Neto can get Luanda, and drive the 
others out, he will have a power base and gradually gain support of other Africans.” 475 


Portuguese and Angolan political situations. On June 24, he received the answers to his June 19 inquiry in 
the form of a CIA memorandum. The Agency’s assessment, a coordinated effort with the State 
Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Defense Intelligence Agency, addressed the 
political alignment within the MFA insofar as it affected support for the Angolan factions, as well as the 
Portuguese decreasing ability, or willingness, to restore the political and military balance in Angola. 
Assessing the Angolan crisis from the Portuguese perspective, the CIA evaluated Jonas Savimbi as the 
choice of the MFA moderates over the Marxist Neto and the perceived Zairian puppet, Holden Roberto, 
noting that the majority, non-radical officers in the Armed Forces Movement, including President Costa 
Gomes and Foreign Minister Melo Antunes, favored him and believed he was more likely to deal even- 
handedly with the white population of Angola. Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of 
Central Intelligence, “Memorandum for: The Senior Review Group, Subject: Portuguese Policy and Role 
in Angola,” June 24, 1975, p. 2, CREST. 

474 Colby had remarked that although the MPLA has pushed the FNLA out of some areas north and east of 
Luanda, in the capital itself the two factions remained in an essential standoff. He then added, “Military 
control of Luanda by either group would necessarily not determine control of or influence over the rest of 
Angola.” Central Intelligence Agency, “Memorandum: DCI Briefing for June 27, 1975 NSC Meeting,” p. 
2 [database on-line]; available from Declassified Documents Reference System. 

475 “Minutes, National Security Council Meeting,” June 27, 1975, p. 3 [database on-line]; available from 
Declassified Documents Reference System. As previously noted, Kissinger was preoccupied with, and 
frequently expressed his opinion on, the importance on controlling the capital city. To drive home this 



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Having made his point, he then proceeded to discuss the options, but remarked that he 
was not in “wild agreement” with any of them. He briefed that the first option - that of 
neutrality - would protect the United States from international and domestic criticism and 
avoid a potentially risky and expensive involvement in a conflict whose outcome was 
probably beyond American control anyway. However, remaining neutral would work in 
the favor of the then- ascendant MPLA, with Neto probably gaining a dominant position 
in Angola, leading Zaire and other American friends in the area to question American 
leadership and resolve. 

The second option - an all-out diplomatic effort - would have the United States 
approach the Soviet Union and other Communist nations in a diplomatic offensive to 
convince them to reduce or stop their arms shipments to the MPLA. At the same time, 
Washington would encourage Portugal to exert authority in Angola and to seek the help 
and cooperation of African states. The drawback to this option, as Kissinger presented 
it, was that if the United States asked the Soviets to cease their weapons support to the 


point, he occasionally alluded to the Congo crisis of 1960 where, he alleged, the Soviet involvement in 
support of Patrice Lumumba was unsuccessful because “we” controlled the capital. The Angolan-Congo 
analogy stretches the point, but his concern was not misplaced in the case of Angola. The battle for Luanda 
became the Angolan war’s center of gravity as Independence Day, November 11, approached. With the 
MPLA still entrenched in the capital and its environs, the pro-Western movements attempted to execute a 
pincer movement on Luanda, with the FNLA, supported by regular Zairian army elements, moving towards 
the capital from the north, and a South African-UNITA-FNLA (Chipenda) force advancing from the south. 
The MPLA, with the help of the Cubans, was able to repel the attacks. On November 11, Agostinho Neto 
declared the independence of the People’s Republic of Angola. Official recognition of the new republic by 
many, but certainly not all nations - the United States included -followed soon after. 



339 


MPLA, “it will be a sign of weakness; for us to police it is next to impossible, and we 
would be bound to do nothing.” 

Kissinger finished his briefing with option three - active support of the FNLA and 
UNITA. He cautioned that this option involved considerable risk, would have to be 
conducted covertly through third parties, and that the Soviet Union would enjoy 
escalation advantages. However he touted the option as an occasion to “check the 
momentum” of the MPLA and reinvigorate the pro-Western factions, while at the same 
time revalidating American credibility. “Playing an active role would demonstrate that 
events in Southeast Asia have not lessened our determination to protect our interests to 
preempt the probable loss to Communism of a key developing country at a time of great 
uncertainty over our will and determination to remain the preeminent leader and defender 
of the West .” 476 

Following the Kissinger options presentation, President Ford specifically asked if 
there was a detailed proposal for arms support. He then remarked that he was not 
prepared to make a decision at the time, but that he wanted to see such a proposal - soon. 
Kissinger then told the president that the Forty Committee had considered an arms 

476 “Talking Points for Secretary Kissinger, National Security Council Meeting on Angola,” June 27, 1975, 
p. 3, National Security Adviser, National Security Council Meeting File, 1974-1977, NSC Meeting, June 
27, 1975, Box 2, Gerald R. Ford Library. See also “Meeting of the National Security Council,” pp. 3-6, 
National Security Adviser, National Security Council Meeting File, 1974-1977, NSC Meeting, June 27, 
1975, Box 2, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



340 

package, in addition to the January 1975 approval of the $300,000 to Holden Roberto, 
and that now he recommended a working group undertake “a more systematic study of 
this option” for the president’s consideration. After some further discussion, President 
Ford directed Colby to prepare another paper specifically related to arms assistance 
options, as well as other considerations, such as the role Zaire could play. The meeting 
adjourned on this note. While the president had made no decision yet on just what the 
United States should do about Angola, the wheels of the foreign policy bureaucracy, now 
greased by the president’s directive and an increased sense of urgency, began to turn 
more quickly. 

Decision Day 

Nathaniel Davis noted that upon his return from his east African trip on June 29, “the 
Angola issue was moving toward decision.” That decision - still nearly three weeks 
away - was probably influenced in part by the breakdown of yet another endeavor at 
reconciling the competing factions and the intensified violence that ensued. This latest 
attempt, largely brokered by Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta in Nakuru, Kenya, from 


477 “Meeting of the National Security Council,” p. 7. 

478 Davis, “The Angola Decision of 1975,” 11. 



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15 to 22 June, essentially recommitted the three movements to the provisions of the 
Alvor accord. 479 

By early July, however, after a brief but tense lull in violence following the signing of 
the Nakuru agreement, fighting once again broke out, only this time with disastrous 
results for the pro-Western factions. As Kissinger testified, “On July 8 all-out civil war 
began when the MPLA attacked the FNLA and UNITA, driving both organizations out of 
Luanda, and thereby ending the short-lived coalition government. By mid-July, the 
military situation radically favored the MPLA.” 480 

Given the substantially changed military and political situation in Angola, the Forty 
Committee met on July 14 th to consider the options paper the CIA had prepared, 
ostensibly with other departments’ input, and pursuant to President’s Ford’s directive 
during the late June NSC meeting. IAFEATURE’s chief, John Stockwell, has detailed 


479 According to journalist Andrew Torchia of the Washington Post , the three movements declared, “they 
will stop fighting, free prisoners, disarm civilians and demobilize their troops so that the Portuguese colony 
may peacefully become independent in November. . .Roberto said all three guerrilla leaders were convinced 
the agreement today would return peace to Angola.” Andrew Torchia, “Angolan Rivals Set Pact,” 
Washington Post, June 22, 1975, 1. 

480 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 17. In the Secretary of State’s 
weekly staff meeting on July 14, following the MPLA’s ouster of the other two movements from Luanda, 
Kissinger once again lamented the “loss” of the capital. Nathaniel Davis gave the secretary a brief update 
on the situation in the capital and the FNLA’s “ineffective” counteraction to the expulsion, to which 
Kissinger responded, “Well, that means the MPLA is going to control Luanda. . .After I was told for six 
months that Holden Roberto was in great shape.” Davis, apparently trying to put a positive spin on the 
deteriorating position of the FNLA, noted that Robert still “has strength in the north, and that essentially is 
not destroyed.” Kissinger then reiterated his point that only those holding the capital had any claim to 
legitimacy. “Minutes, Secretary’s Staff Meeting; Attached to Decision Summary,” July 14, 1975, pp. 42- 
43 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, Kissinger Transcripts. 



342 


the four options put forth in the CIA paper. The first proposed limited financial support, 
along the lines of the January allocation, for political purposes. Up to July, Stockwell 
states that Holden Roberto had received $265,000 of the original $300,000. The second 
option involved substantial financial support and covert action, at a cost of $6 million, 
intended to redress the military imbalance. The third called for a significant increase in 
both financial and material support - a total of $14 million - for both the FNLA and 
UNITA in order to give them superiority over the MPLA, “providing the USSR did not 
escalate its assistance.” The final option took into account a Soviet escalation and 
proposed a $40 million support package designed to support Roberto and Savimbi’s 
forces for one year. Regarding the fourth option, Stockwell points out, “There was no 
indication of how this estimate of Soviet response had been developed.” He also notes 
that the CIA’s study did not include the option of staying out of the conflict all 
together. 481 

Nathaniel Davis was not invited to the July 14 meeting, but wrote that it adjourned 
without reaching any conclusions or recommendations. However, according to John 
Stockwell, the Forty Committee requested that the Agency develop a covert action plan 
for Angola based on option 2, which was the option that the CIA had recommended to 
the Forty Committee and the one intended to redress the military imbalance. The plan 

4S1 Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 54. 



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4R? 

was completed and submitted to the Forty Committee on July 16. “ On that same day, 
Kissinger met with Nathaniel Davis to apprise him that he would be recommending that 
President Ford approve a $6 million dollar assistance package. Still, he remarked that he 
would at the same time give the president the State Department’s uncensored viewpoint, 
that is, their recommendation that the United States pursue a diplomatic course or remain 
neutral. He told Davis, however, that in his judgment the president would approve the 
covert plan. 483 

The next day, July 17, Kissinger presented the covert action plan to President Ford 
recommending, as he had told Davis he would, that the president approve it. In his 
discussion with Ford, Kissinger told the president, “I favor action. If the U.S. does 
nothing when the Soviet- supported group gains dominance, I think all the movements 
will draw the conclusion that they must accommodate to the Soviet Union and China. I 
think reluctantly we must do something.” He tells us he then apprised the president of 
the State Department’s opposition and its fears that the covert plan would leak. 484 


“ Davis, “The Angola Decision of 1975,” 116. 

483 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 807. 

484 Ibid., 808-809. Nathaniel Davis’ recollection of the July recommendation and decision point process on 
Angola varies slightly, but unimportantly, from both Kissinger’s and Stockwell’s accounts, which also 
differ slightly from each other. In recounting his discussion with Kissinger after Ford’s approval of the 
covert action plan, Davis wrote that the Secretary of State assured him that he had apprised the president of 
the State Department’s general opposition to intervention, and that he “had given the President a copy of 
my memorandum of July 12 to read.” Davis, “The Angola Decision of 1975,” 1 17. The July 12 memo, 
which had been sent to Under Secretary of State Joseph Sisco, with a copy to Kissinger, set forth in great 
detail the reasons for the African Bureau’s opposition to covert action. As Davis explained, “In essence. 



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As Kissinger had correctly predicted to Davis, on July 18, President Ford approved the 
covert plan of $6 million in financial and military assistance, mostly destined for the 

a oc 

FNLA but with some support channeled to UNITA. Kissinger deemed this amount 
“paltry” in comparison to the assistance the Soviets had been providing to the MPLA. 
However, as he and other officials claimed, the plan was not designed to achieve a 
military victory, but rather a military stalemate. 486 The logic of this proceeded as 


the memo argued that covert intervention would not serve larger U.S. interests; that an attempted 
intervention could not be kept secret; and that a covert intervention would have to be so circumscribed as to 
fall between stools in any case - while the other side could escalate at will.” Ibid., 113. Davis resigned his 
position after President Ford’s decision, which came on the morning of 18 July during Kissinger’s daily 
briefing with the president in the oval office. Kissinger convinced Davis to stay on in the State 
Department, and he was subsequently nominated and approved as the American ambassador to 
Switzerland. 

483 On July 27, President Ford authorized an increase of $8 million to execute IAFEATURE, bringing the 
total July allocation to $14 million, in essence approving the CIA option f# 3) designed to give military 
superiority to the pro-Western factions, provided the Soviet Union did not escalate. On August 20, he 
approved an additional $10.7 million; the final allocation of $7 million came on November 27, bringing the 
total to $31.7 million, a sum very close to the CIA’s option 4, which took into account some sort of Soviet 
escalation. According to John Stockwell, who oversaw IAFEATURE’ s implementation, the original $6 
million was shared among Mobutu, Roberto, and Savimbi, with the Zairian president getting the lion’s 
share to encourage him to send more arms to the FNLA and UNITA. The second allocation of funds in 
July - the $8 million - was used to purchase and ship arms to Zaire and to procure airplanes to carry 
weapons from Zaire into Angola. The August allocation of $10.7 million was used to buy more arms and 
aircraft, and for the recruitment of mercenaries and the “maintenance” of the liberation forces. The final $7 
million was allocated for more weapons and mercenaries and the “lease of a C-130 aircraft for use in 
Angola.” Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 206. 

486 Kissinger did not prefer this option, as he later confessed. As he told Vance and Cutler in his meeting 
with them on June 27, his preferred strategy was to go in big and win. As previously noted, his reasoning 
for recommending the $6 million “on-the-ground military stalemate” package was that the McGovernite 
Congress, of which eight committees had to be briefed on the operation because of the Hughes-Ryan 
Amendment of 1974, “would never had approved what they would have castigated as a military approach.” 
Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 808. The thrust of the Hughes-Ryan Amendment was to provide Congress 
with more oversight of CIA covert operations. It specifically prohibited such operations unless the 
president, in writing, deemed them to be important to the national security. It also expanded the number of 
committees in Congress that were to be briefed on the operation once the president had made his finding. 



345 


follows. Once the on-the-ground equilibrium has been restored, conditions would then be 
favorable for convincing the contending parties to reach a negotiated compromise - not 
unlike the provisions, and intentions, of the original Alvor agreement. At this time, with 
the military situation stalemated and the three liberation movements returning to the 
bargaining table, the United States would pressure the Soviet Union to halt its arms 
deliveries to the MPLA. The United States would then publicly support an OAU appeal 
calling for an end to all outside military assistance, thereby, as Kissinger contended, 
removing the Angolan crisis from the Cold War stage and “returning the issue to an 
African dimension.” 487 

Civil War in Angola 

The Angolan story does not end here, in mid-summer 1975. Fed by a boost in military 
support from the United Sates and Zaire for the pro-Westem factions and from the 
Soviet-Cuban alliance for the MPLA, the increasingly bloody civil war continued into the 
fall of 1975 and beyond. In October, units of the South African Defense Force, 
accompanied by Savimbi and Chipenda combatants, launched a full-scale blitzkrieg-style 
attack northward from southern Angola toward Luanda. In response, Cuba began its 


At the same time, however, it worked to tie Congress’ hands because it prevented any member from 
publicly discussing anything he or she had received in the intelligence briefing. For a discussion of the 
Hughes-Ryan Amendment, see Johnson, “The Unintended Consequences of Congressional Reform,” 
passim. 

4S7 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 808. Kissinger admitted that ascertaining at what point the military 
“equilibrium” was attained might be “difficult to calibrate.” 



346 


massive airlift of combatants, codenamed Operation Carlotta, even while Holden 
Roberto’s FNLA in the north commenced its final attempt to take Luanda by 
Independence Day. 

The MPLA and the Cubans held onto Luanda. On November 10, the Portuguese 
departed, having transferred sovereignty to the Angolan people and not to any one of the 
three contenders. In Luanda the next day, the still-ensconced MPLA declared the new 
People’s Republic of Angola (PRA) with Agostinho Neto as president. At the time, the 
Popular Movement controlled only the capital and a small surrounding coastal area, a 
narrow strip inland to Malanje, about 200 miles east of Luanda, a few enclaves in 
Angola’s interior, and oil-rich Cabinda. 

On November 11, the FNLA-UNITA coalition declared it own Democratic Republic 
of Angola (DRA), with its administrative capital in the Savimbi stronghold of Nova 
Lisboa (now Huambo) in central Angola. Holden Roberto, however, remained in his 
military headquarters in Ambriz, about sixty miles north of Luanda, and Savimbi steered 
clear of the administrative structure established in Nova Lisboa, preferring to operate out 
of his own military base at Silva Porto, east of Huambo. No nation - in or out of Africa - 
recognized the Huambo government. In any case, The FNLA-UNITA coalition 
government fell apart almost immediately as the deep divisions between the two 
movements trumped their mutual interest of achieving at least a military stalemate with 



347 


the MPLA and of becoming part of a new tri-partite coalition government, as the Alvor 
agreements had originally envisioned and planned. 

With Cuban assistance and increasing amounts of Soviet arms, the MPLA routed 
Roberto’s FNLA, supported by some 1,200 Zairian troops, in the north in November and 
December 1975. Roberto and his movement quickly became a non-factor in Angola’s 
future. The MPLA and Cubans then turned their efforts toward the south and the South 
African-UNITA-FNLA joint task force, which had halted its advance toward Luanda at 
Novo Redondo, about half way between Benguela and Luanda, on November 13, in the 
face of stiff MPLA-Cuban resistance. 

Following an OAU summit meeting in early January 1976, during which half of the 
member nations recognized the MPLA while half remained in support of a tri-partite 
coalition government, South Africa began a withdrawal toward the Namibian border. As 
the South Africans withdrew and his military headquarters at Silva Porto came under 
pressure from advancing MPLA-Cuban forces, Jonas Savimbi retreated to the bush - 
familiar and friendly territory for the seasoned guerrilla leader - where he continued to 
battle the MPLA until his death in early 2002. 

What Went Wrong with Angola’s Decolonization 

Washington’s alleged objective of a negotiated return to some semblance of civility, 
which would permit the Angolans to determine their own future without external 



348 


interference, went unfulfilled. Numerous factors contributed to this unfortunate situation. 
At least part of the failure was the lack of external support and encouragement for 
Portugal’s efforts to implement a peaceful road to independence. The United States, for 
example, had explicitly rejected the Davis Task Force’s recommendation for a diplomatic 
solution. Conversely, outside military and financial backing for the three liberation 
movements increased even as the ink was still drying on the Alvor agreements. Lisbon 
no doubt hoped that Angola’s decolonization process would proceed quickly and without 
outside interference, as had generally occurred in Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. Hope 
is not a strategy, however. By January 31, 1975, when the transitional government, as 
established by the Alvor agreement, took power in Luanda, external involvement had 
already begun to affect the tenuous peace among the three liberation movements. 

Violence broke out almost immediately in Luanda and elsewhere in northern Angola, 
especially between the MPLA and FNLA. As discussed above, Washington blamed the 
breakdown of the Alvor accord on the alleged influx of extensive Soviet arms to the 
MPLA in late 1974 and again in the spring of 1975. However, the United States decided, 
only one week after the agreement was signed, to give $300,000 to Holden Roberto and 
the FNLA. This was not a “modest” amount in Third World Angola. The American 
assistance also came alongside continuing support from Zaire, and on the heels of 
Chinese support, whose trainers, advisers, and weapons package for the FNLA had begun 



349 


arriving in Kinshasa the previous spring and summer. I will discuss these issues in more 
detail in the following chapters. Suffice it to say here that the cumulative effect of this 
multi-national assistance to the FNLA had serious consequences for the Alvor agreement, 
despite American claims to the contrary. 

If Lisbon’s efforts to keep the peace during decolonization were at least partially 
undermined by the lack of diplomatic support, its own actions, or lack thereof, 
exacerbated an already tense and unstable situation. The Portuguese were either unable 
or unwilling to use force, as necessary, to carry out the provision of the January accord. 

As the agreements began to unravel in February 1975, Portugal’s attempts to contain or 
reverse the escalating violence were half-hearted or non-existent, with the Territorial 
Army largely withdrawn to garrisons near the major urban centers. Lisbon wanted a 
quick exit out of Angola, even if it meant abandoning any semblance of authority or order 
in the last few months of the Portuguese presence in Angola. 

The series of short-lived ceasefires throughout the spring and early summer of 1975 
underscored Lisbon’s declining ability to control the situation. Finally, in August, the 
Portuguese suspended the Alvor accord - and the transitional government with it. By that 
time, with foreign arms and money flowing to all three factions, the Angolan conflict had 
already escalated into a full-scale civil war. Lisbon’s 1 1 th hour efforts to restore Angola 
to a status quo ante bellum situation and to renegotiate with the three movements were 



350 


futile. They came much too late to reverse the situation. The Portuguese “decent 
interval” lasted until November 10, when they quietly hauled down their flag and exited 
Luanda under the cover of darkness. 

Finally, from the start, the odds were against Lisbon’s effort to persuade the three 
liberation movements to politically resolve their problems. The long history of mutual 
suspicions, distrust and hostilities among the three did not portend well for either their 
desire or capacity to work together. Moreover, throughout the long years of insurgency 
against the Portuguese, all three had become accustomed to soliciting outside assistance. 
This patronage business accelerated after the April 1974 coup in Portugal and the MFA’s 
subsequent decision to decolonize. The three liberations movements, then, but especially 
the leadership of the MPLA and FNLA, also bear some responsibility for the breakdown 
of the Alvor accords. 

Conclusion 

In this chapter I have detailed the Ford Administration’s rationale and justification for 
the American intervention in Angola’s internal war, as well as the stated timelines and 
extent of that involvement - mostly in the administration’s own words. To summarize 
the argument on why the United States intervened, the president and his principal foreign 
policy advisers asserted: that the crisis was not about Angola and that more important 
global balance of power issues were involved; that both friends and adversaries would 



351 


view American inaction as a indicator of weakness and as a retreat from its super-power 
responsibilities, primarily that of maintaining an international equilibrium by 
demonstrating resolve in the face of Soviet- supported aggression; that to remain passive 
while the Soviet Union marched on, unimpeded, would have grave repercussions for 
American national security interests, now and in the future. 

Washington’s account of the timing of the American involvement can be summarized 
thusly. President Ford’s decision in July 1975 to provide modest support to the pro- 
Western factions in Angola came only after months of lengthy deliberations, discussion 
and continuing requests from Angola’s neighbors, primarily Zaire and Zambia. They 
were deeply concerned about their own security if Soviet arms and Cuban expeditionary 
forces succeeded in imposing a Marxist-1 .eninist regime on Angola. 

Soviet arms support for the MPLA began in August 1974 and accelerated in March 
1975. Cuban advisers and trainers then arrived in the late spring of 1975 to bolster the 
effectiveness of the Popular Movement’s military capabilities. Despite these 
Communist-initiated and escalatory actions, the United States stayed clear of the building 
crisis, having allocated only a modest amount of political funding to the FNLA in 
January 1975. However, the massive influx of Soviet weapons tipped the military 
balance in favor of the MPLA, which initiated attacks first on the FNLA and later on 
UNITA, driving them both out of Luanda in early July and essentially destroying the 



352 


Alvor agreement. It was at this point that Washington finally decided to respond by 
providing moderate military support to the anti-MPLA coalition. 

The American objective was to restore the military balance on the ground in order to 

bring the warring factions back to the negotiating table and to reestablish a tri-partite 

coalition government that could effectively manage a peaceful transition to 

independence. William Schaufele summarized the administration’s argument as follows: 

It is noteworthy that violence broke out in Luanda in March after 
large shipments of Soviet arms. . .began to arrive there for the MPLA. 

Fighting. . .increased in intensity in April, May, and June as massive 
deliveries of Communist arms and equipment ...flowed into Luanda 
and Congo (Brazzaville). On July 9, all-out civil war began when the 
MPLA drove the FNLA and UNITA forces out of Luanda thereby 
destroying the transitional government. As you can imagine, the 
military situation of the FNLA and particularly UNITA forces became 
increasingly desperate last summer in the face of massive Soviet arms 
shipments. It was this situation that the friendly African governments 
turned to us for assistance in preventing what they increasingly 
perceived as a Soviet power play to put a radical minority faction. . . 
in control of a neighboring country. It was not until July 18, more 
than 6 months after the Soviet Union had stepped up its military aid 
to the MPLA that we decided to provide military assistance to the 
FNLA and UNITA forces in cooperation indirectly with neighboring 
countries. 488 


Senator Clark and most of his colleagues in both the Senate and House of 
Representatives questioned the veracity of the official story. They ultimately decided 
that there were too many holes in the story to justify their approval of yet more funds for 
488 House of Representatives, Committee on International Relations, United States Policy on Angola , 3. 



353 


continuing the American involvement. Still, the Clark hearings of early 1976, as well as 
nearly everything claimed by the Ford Administration, have never provided any 
definitive answers to the real why’s and wherefore’s of the American intervention. The 
next chapters address these unanswered questions and the issues left dangling in an 
attempt to correct how this Cold War episode is remembered. 



354 


CHAPTER 6 

AMERICAN INTERVENTION IN ANGOLA: WHY DID THE UNITED STATES 

BECOME INVOLVED? 

“America ’s modest direct strategic and economic interests 
in Angola are not the centred issue. The question is whether 
America maintains the resolve to act responsibly as a great 
power. ” 

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger 489 

“Past support to Mobutu. . .make it equally likely that the 
paramount factor in the U.S. involvement is Dr. Kissinger’s 
desire to reward and protect African leaders in the area. ” 

The Pike Committee 490 

What follows in this and the ensuing chapter is a rebuttal to the official mythology, as 
recounted in Chapter 5, on why and when the United States intervened in Angola. This 
chapter first critically assesses the administration’s credibility argument as the reason for 
its decision to involve the United States in Angola. As previously discussed. Ford 
Administration officials asserted that to preserve international stability, the United States 
needed to show that it had not lost its determination or capacity to respond to Soviet- 
initiated aggression. 

In the first part of this chapter, I argue that “credibility” was, indeed, the principal 
reason for the American intervention, but in a very different way than Kissinger and 
others overtly presented it. To Congress, the media and the court of public opinion, they 


4S9 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola , January 29, 1976, 8. 
490 “The CIA Report the President Doesn’t Want to Read,” 85. 



355 


consistently stressed the deterrent side of credibility . 491 They warned that if the United 
States failed to respond to the alleged Soviet aggression in support of its client, the 
MPLA, it would encourage further adventurism by the Kremlin, increasing the chances 
for future, and more serious, super power confrontations. 

In contrast, behind the closed doors of the State Department, the National Security 
Council, and the Oval Office, Kissinger emphasized the commitment side of credibility. 
This was particularly true as it pertained to the restoration of American leadership in the 
Western Alliance and the reinvigoration of the American-Chinese relationship. With this 
as his primary motivation, Kissinger saw Angola not only as a test of American resolve, 
but also, and most importantly, as an opportunity to yet again square off with the Soviet 
Union. Doing so would show allies and friends, not to mention the fence sitters, that the 
recent events in Southeast Asia had not made “a helpless giant” out of the United States. 

Later in this chapter, I also examine the degree of influence of three African “friends” 
on the American decision to intervene. In other words, I will investigate whether or not a 
pericentric, or “tail wagging the dog” dynamic, as discussed in the Introduction, 
inadvertently drew the United States into a conflict where it had few, if any, important 

491 As previously noted in my introduction, Robert McMahon’s study of the issue of American credibility 
during the Cold War era identifies and discusses credibility’s two components: the credibility of deterrence 
and the credibility of commitments. As the author observed, “Just as threats need to be credible to deter 
potential aggressors, so too must promises be credible to reassure friends.” McMahon, “Credibility and 
World Power,” 455. 



356 


interests. The stridently anti-Communist, Zambia, Zaire and South Africa all supported 
the anti-MPLA coalition, especially the latter two, and their stakes in the outcome of the 
Angolan conflict were high, as will be discussed. It is possible that one or more of the 
three decided to take advantage of the adversarial American-Soviet global relationship to 
protect or advance their own localized interests through an appeal to Washington for 
assistance. 

In the next chapter, I refute the intervention timelines as presented by Kissinger and 
others. Taken together, Chapters 6 and 7 reveal that the Ford Administration’s account is 
most notable not for its veracity but for its distortion and subversion of the truth and for 
its blame-shifting. The apparently well-choreographed and well-rehearsed official story 
is still repeated and defended with slight adjustments, mainly to the timing and agency of 
the Cuban involvement, by members of the Ford Administration, including first and 
foremost former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. 492 


492 Kissinger, Years of Renewal. He makes these adjustments in both Chapter 25, “Cuban Interlude,” 770- 
790, and Chapter 26, “Civil War in Angola,” 791-833. 



357 


The Chain of Mistakes 493 

The Portuguese coup of April 1974 and the MFA’s subsequent decision for rapid 
decolonization foretold a significant change in the status quo in central and southern 
Africa as the Portuguese colonial buffer protecting the white minority regimes of 
Rhodesia and South Africa rapidly came apart. The consequences of Portuguese 
decolonization for southern Africa went largely unrecognized in Washington, except 
perhaps by a small number of dedicated Africanists in the foreign policy bureaucracy, 
including the erstwhile Assistant Secretary of State, Donald Easum. However, by the 
time of the Portuguese coup, the premises of Option Two of NSSM 39 had become 
entrenched in the foreign policy bureaucracy. Moreover, the related restrictions on 
contacts with the various liberation movements hindered a knowledgeable and objective 
evaluation of either the individual leaders or their ideas and plans for the post- 
decolonization future. 494 


493 Educator and author Robert E. Mittelstaedt, Jr., currently the Dean of the W.P. Carey School of 
Business at Arizona State University, has analyzed the consequences of “mistake chains” for the corporate 
world. He describes them as a sequence of flawed decision-making events that, once in place, lead to a 
catastrophic systems failure. His analysis of corporate decision-making is applicable to the foreign policy 
process. Robert E. Mittelstaedt, Jr., Will Your Next Mistake be Fatal? Avoiding the Mistake Chain That 
Can Destroy Your Organization (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2005), passim. 

494 In a series of briefing papers on southern Africa and Angola, as previously discussed, the State 
Department estimated that Lisbon’s decision to decolonize “opened the door to far-reaching changes 
affecting the entire southern African region. Full Independence for black rule scheduled for June of next 
year in Mozambique, and later in Angola, will create the first breach in the cordon of friendly buffers 
between South Africa and black Africa.” Still, the Department reported that these changes, while 
prompting further questions, such as, should the United States be more supportive of Portugal in its 
decolonization efforts in Mozambique and Angola, did not fundamentally change the American policy 



358 


Even after the restrictions were lifted in July 1974, following Portugal’s decision to 
grant independence to its African colonies, individual and bureaucratic biases against the 
supposed Marxist Neto and his MPLA and in favor of the CIA’s long-time client - 
Holden Roberto and the FNLA - impeded impartial assessments and judgments. Making 
matters worse, Secretary of State Kissinger rarely asked for advice or detailed analyses 
from his assistant secretaries on Africa. When he did, he generally ignored them, 
sometimes even referring to the State Department’s AF as “our missionary bureau,” 
intimating they were more concerned with nurturing and saving African souls than 
supporting his own real-politik, “play tough” disposition and proclivities. 495 

Kissinger’s ignorance of Angolan events, including the political agendas of the 
leadership of three liberations movements, was manifestly on display during Zambian 


(Option Two) in southern Africa, which “has served us well in protecting our conflicting interests in black 
and white Africa.” Memorandum for Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, The White House, Subject: 
Issues Paper on Southern Africa, December 13, 1974, 1, 6-7. 

495 In September 1975, William Hyland apprised Kissinger that Mobutu was considering sending Zairian 
forces into Angola after the MPLA had driven the FNLA out of Caxito, an important junction just north of 
Luanda. The Secretary of State, apparently approving of that action, asked Nathaniel Davis, still attending 
State Department meetings as the AF chief, “Is our missionary bureau going to keep its mouth shut on the 
subject, or are we going to advise Mobutu?” Davis responded, “We’ll do our best to keep our mouth shut,” 
to which Kissinger replied, “That would be helpful.” “Minutes of the Secretary’s Staff Meeting,” 
September 11, 1975, p. 27 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, Kissinger 
Transcripts. Kissinger also condescendingly referred to the State Department officials as “pristine 
bureaucrats.” Mark Hertsgaard, “The Secret Life of Henry Kissinger (Minutes of a 1975 Meeting with 
Lawrence Eagleburger),” The Nation 251, no. 14 (October 29, 1990); [Database on-line]; available from 
Expanded Academic ASAP. The phrase, “pristine bureaucrats,” is taken directly from a Memorandum of 
Conversation detailing a December 18, 1975 meeting, “Subject: Department Policy,” between Kissinger 
and top State Department officials concerning the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and the increasing 
numbers of leaks about the American involvement in Angola. 



359 


President Kenneth Kaunda’s visit to Washington, D.C. in April 1975. In a telegram to 
the American Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, as well as other American embassies 
in southern Africa, Kissinger summarized his meeting with Kaunda. He reported, first, 
that he had told the Zambian president that the United States welcomed the independence 
of the Portuguese colonies, and that America would do its best to support their 
independence. Kissinger then told Kaunda that “we knew relatively little about such 
areas as Angola, where there are three different liberation movements, and this made it 
difficult to estimate which potential leader would be best for a stable rule.” 496 This 
statement, of course, came just three months after the Forty Committee, which he headed, 
had authorized $300,000 in political assistance to the CIA’s favorite son, Holden 
Roberto. 

To make matters worse, the reporting by the American Consul General in Luanda, 
Tom Killoran, which spoke most favorably of the MPLA and was highly critical of both 
Holden Roberto’s FNLA and Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA, was largely dismissed in 


496 “State Department Telegram, Subject: Kaunda’s Meeting with Secretary (Meeting on April 19),” 1 May 
1975, p. 2, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zambia, State Department 
Telegrams from SecState - EXD1S, Box 8, Gerald R. Ford Library. The lack of a well-informed and 
rational understanding of the dynamics of the Angolan internal situation continued to hamper American 
decision-making throughout the summer and fall of 1975. Director of Central Intelligence Colby perhaps 
best exemplified this shortcoming in his testimony before the Pike Committee in late 1975. Under intense 
questioning from Representative Les Aspin (D-WI), Colby observed that there was not much ideological 
difference among the three nationalist movements. Aspin, referring to the FNLA then asked, “And why are 
the Chinese backing the moderate group,” Colby replied, “Because the Soviets are backing the MPLA is 
the simplest answer.” Aspin then responded, “It sounds like that is why we are doing it.” Colby’s quick 
answer was, “It is.” “The CIA Report the President Doesn’t Want to Read,” 88. 



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Washington. 497 In fact, in his memoirs, Years of Renewal, Kissinger seemed unaware 
that Killoran, or an American consulate, even existed in Luanda. In discussing the three 
liberation movements and the notable lack of sound intelligence about each, except for 
the information derived from Holden Roberto via the CIA station in Kinshasa, Kissinger 
wrote, “The United States had no official representatives in Angola and was only 
episodically informed about the maneuvers of the various factions.” 498 

The effects of the lack of informed and impartial information and intelligence in the 
decision-making process on Angola were exacerbated by a propensity, especially on the 
part of Kissinger as he had demonstrated in the September crises of 1970, to confront the 
Soviet Union or its purported client states throughout the world. Whether vital American 
strategic or economic interests were involved or not, Mr. Kissinger defended American 
actions as a necessary demonstration of American determination and capability to 
respond globally to what he portrayed as Soviet adventurism or Communist- supported 
aggression. 


497 Former CIA agent Robert W. Hultslander, who served as Station Chief in Luanda from early August 
1975 until early November, when the American Embassy and the CIA station were evacuated, also spoke 
highly of the MPLA, despite the information he received on the movement at CIA headquarters prior to 
arriving in Luanda. As noted, “I must admit that Killoran and I were frequently at loggerheads over what I 
initially perceived as his MPLA bias. The briefings and orientation I received prior to arriving in Luanda 
emphasized the communist orientation of the MPLA, and convinced me of the urgent need to stop the 
MPLA from taking power. . .It was only after three months in Luanda, that I realized what was really 
happening.” Mr. Hultslander went on to explain his growing favorable assessment of the MPLA and 
disillusionment with both the FNLA and UNIT A, citing the corrupt and unprincipled leadership of the 
FNLA and UNITA’s ties with the South Africans. Hultslander, “Interview with Robert W. Hultslander.” 

498 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 794-795. 



361 


Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Kissinger’s long-time associate and the National Security 
Council’s expert on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, a position to which Kissinger 
had appointed him, captured the Secretary of State’s real-politik rationale as it related to 
the Angolan crisis. Speaking before an audience at the 22 nd Annual National Security 
Seminar at the U.S. Army War College in June 1976, he observed that the United States, 
in effect, had to be the premier globocop, even when American national security interests 
were not, or at least not directly, involved, as was the case in the Angolan crisis. 
Sonnenfeldt criticized the lack of will and resolve shown by Congress in voting for the 
cutoff of funds to the FNLA and UNITA. He then remarked, “The point about Angola 
that I would make is that it may well be that we had no intrinsic interest in Angola as 
such. But I do think that once a locale, no matter how remote and unimportant for us, 
becomes a focal point for Soviet, and in this instance, Soviet- supported Cuban military 
action, the United States acquires a derivative interest which we simply cannot avoid.” 499 

Still, the cumulative effects of the largely unbroken chain of mistakes in the Angolan 

decision-making process might not have resulted in the president’s selection of the 

intervention option if not for the White House’s near-paranoid fixation with the issue of 

American credibility in the aftermath of the defeat in Southeast Asia. Despite Kissinger’s 

immediate post-Vietnam reflections, in which he suggested that the United States might 

499 Helmut Sonnenfeldt, “American-Soviet Relations: Informal Remarks,” Parameters 6, no. 1 (June 
1976 ): 15 - 16 . 



362 


have made a mistake in viewing the conflict in global rather than Vietnamese terms, 
President Ford’s authorization of IAFEATURE demonstrated that Washington had failed 
to learn any lessons from that intervention . 500 His decision, spurred by the pugnacious 
Kissinger, disastrously entangled the United States in yet another conflict, this time in a 
far-off land called Angola. 

The Commitment Side of Credibility 

In my introduction to this study, I briefly discussed historian Robert McMahon’s 
analysis of the dual significance that American presidents and diplomats attached to the 
notion of credibility as it related to the exercise of power during the Cold War . 501 The 
first is related to the believability of threats in order to deter actual and potential 
adversaries both in the near- and long-term. Sending the right message on American 
resolve through decisive action in Angola applied, of course, to the United States’ 
primary Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union. Kissinger pointed out this side of the 


500 As previously discussed in note 403, page 227, Kissinger expressed these sentiments in an early May 
1975 interview with NBC’s Barbara Walters. 

501 Despite the end of the Cold War, the credibility component in American foreign policy still seems to 
resonate loudly. McMahon, for example, quotes Richard Nixon to illustrate the hoped-for deterrent effect 
of a clear-cut demonstration of American resolve. In referring to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the 
former president remarked, “If we fail to roll back [Saddam Hussein’s] aggression - peacefully if possible, 
by force if necessary - no potential aggressor in the future will be deterred by warnings from the U.S. or by 
U.N. resolutions.” McMahon, “Credibility and World Power,” 455. The citation is originally from a 
column by William Safire in the December 14, 1990 New York Times. More recently. President George W. 
Bush, in words that former Presidents Nixon and Ford and Henry Kissinger could relate to, noted, “The 
consequences of failure [in Iraq] would be grievous and far reaching.” President George W. Bush, “State 
of the Union Address,” January 24, 2007. 



363 


credibility sword - the credibility of deterrence - shortly after passage of the Tunney 
Amendment in December 1975. Strongly advocating a continued engagement in Angola, 
in any possible way, he told the members of the National Security Council that the Soviet 
Union was throwing its weight around. The United States should not give it a free hand 
to do so, because, “We don’t want to whet the Soviet appetite.” 502 

The administration’s public rhetoric against Soviet actions in Angola became 
increasingly harsh in late 1975 and early 1976. At least part of the purpose of such open 
criticism was to convince the Congress and the American public that the Soviet Union’s 
conduct in Angola was provocative, dangerous and irresponsible, thereby justifying 
American actions as a necessary response. This, of course, was a persistent Cold War 
theme aimed at gaining support for American policies directed against the Soviet Union 
or its alleged client states. As such, President Ford and his chief foreign policy adviser 
continued the Cold War rationale of their predecessors, starting with Harry Truman and 
his 1947 doctrine, support for which required “scaring hell” out of the American public. 

However, mostly lost in the noise of attacks against the alleged Soviet aggression in 
Angola was Kissinger’s mostly private emphasis on credibility’s other significance. This 
was the believability of American commitments and the consequences of not living up to 

502 “Minutes, National Security Council Meeting, Subject: SALT (and Angola),” December 22, 1975, p. 

12. It was after this pronouncement that Kissinger advocated deploying U.S. Navy combatants off the 
Angolan coast, for its “psychological benefits.” 



364 


cno 

them, especially for the future of the trans-Atlantic alliance. During the long American 
involvement in Southeast Asia, NATO’s European members had begun to exercise an 
independence of actions that often troubled Washington. As I will discuss shortly, the 
White House believed that American credibility had to be restored both to reinvigorate 
the alliance and to reassert Washington’s leading role. Kissinger’s own words 
demonstrate his concerns about the question of America’s commitment credibility in the 
aftermath of Vietnam and its effects upon American-West European relations. “No 
serious policymaker could allow himself to succumb to the fashionable debunking of 
‘prestige’ or ‘honor’ or ‘credibility.’ ...We could not revitalize the Atlantic Alliance if its 
governments were assailed by doubt about American staying power.” 504 

His concerns over this issue also extended to the Chinese. By early 1975, 
Washington’s diplomatic offensive toward Beijing had essentially come to a standstill. 
Kissinger tried to re-energize the relationship during his late November 1974 visit, 
following the Ford-Brezhnev Vladivostok arms agreement. However, the Chinese 
leadership was by then in a critical transitional period between Chairman Mao Zedong 


503 The deterrent and commitment sides of credibility are not mutually exclusive, of course, as Robert 
McMahon has pointed out. “Indeed, they have often been interwoven in public debates and private 
deliberations about American foreign policy.” McMahon, “Credibility and World Power,” 456. This was 
true in the case of Angola. However, at least as early as December 1975, in private sessions with the 
president and at the State Department, Kissinger began stressing the link between the American 
commitment in Angola and the Western European and Chinese perception of American resolve and 
leadership. 

504 Kissinger, White House Years, 228. 



365 


and Premier Zhou Enlai, both seriously ill, and their successors. As a result, the 
American secretary of state was unable to consult with the two leaders with whom he had 
built considerable rapport during his five previous visits to Beijing. Deng Xiaoping was 
his new sparring partner. Having been recently rehabilitated from his revisionist ways, 
he had neither the power nor the authority to be as open or accommodating to the 
American side as either Mao or Zhou. 

In addition to this obstacle to effective diplomacy, the Chinese had sharply stepped up 
their criticism of Soviet- American detente and the American refusal to sever its formal 
ties with Taiwan as a prerequisite to full normalization of the Washington-Beijing 
relationship. Consequently, Kissinger saw China’s crucial role in his triangular 
diplomacy as increasingly problematic, as we shall see. 

For these reasons, I argue that in the wake of the American defeat in Vietnam, the 
White House’s primary motive for its decision to intervene in Angola was to resurrect 
American credibility with its West European allies and with China through a display of 
toughness against the Soviet Union. More plainly stated, in the specific case of Angola, 
the commitment side of credibility trumped the deterrent side. 



366 

This emphasis, of course, does not lessen the importance the White House also 
attached to the deterrent component of credibility. 505 The Secretary of State was 
noticeably distraught over the Soviet involvement in Angola, especially when it became 
clear that the Kremlin-backed MPLA was winning and after, from his perspective, the 
American Congress added insult to injury by denying further funding to the American- 
backed factions. 506 Still, I contend that Kissinger, at least, was most concerned about 
how any sign of American irresolution in Angola, such as the Tunney Amendment, 
would play in the capitals of Western Europe and in Beijing. 

American Credibility and the Atlantic Alliance 

As previously discussed in Chapter 2, West Germany’s Ostpolitik concerned 
Kissinger and President Nixon because of the fear that the two Germany’s would reach 
an accord in which they would reunite under the flag of neutralism, thus delivering a 
major blow to NATO. By 1975, Helmut Schmidt, whom Kissinger admired, had 


505 Credibility, as it related to an adversary’s perception of American resolve and willingness to act, most 
notably that of the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, was the foundation of the concept of deterrence 
in American strategy. It was also central to what Kissinger argued was America’s primary super-power 
responsibility: to define the limits of the Kremlin’s ambitions, to foreclose opportunities for Soviet 
adventurism, and to block Soviet expansionism, all necessary elements in managing the emergence of the 
Soviet Union as a global super power and maintaining a stable international order. Kissinger’s memoirs 
and public statements are replete with references to this side of the credibility dynamic. 

506 Late in the Angolan war when the American involvement became well known and with the American- 
backed factions losing ground to the MPLA-Cuban forces, backed by a substantial supply of Soviet arms, 
Kissinger and other officials, including the president, sharply criticized not only Soviet actions in Angola, 
but also the actions of the American Congress in denying the Executive Branch what they claimed was the 
means to confront and prevent a Soviet-imposed regime in Angola. 



367 


succeeded Willie Brandt as the West German Chancellor, and Kissinger trusted him more 
than his predecessor. Because of the changed circumstances in West Germany, during 
the Ford presidency, Paris (and not Bonn) was almost always foremost in Mr. Kissinger’s 
mind when he privately discussed the nexus between American credibility with its allies 
and the Angolan conflict. 508 

France, of course, had displayed maverick tendencies since at least the days of the de 
Gaulle government. In the mid-1960s, the French had left the military structure of 
NATO (but not the political organization), causing the Western Alliance to move its 


507 Schmidt, a member of the West German Social Democratic Party (SPD), served as Brandt’s Minister of 
Defense and Minister of Finance before becoming Chancellor in May 1974, following Brandt’s resignation 
in the wake of a political scandal involving East German agents in his government. Kissinger thought 
highly of Schmidt because of his strong stance against the Eurocommunist parties of Western Europe and 
his successful attempts to improve West German-French relations through his personal relationship with 
French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing. Kissinger expressed his admiration of Schmidt to the Chinese, 
who also admired him, in a late September meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua in New 
York. After criticizing Soviet- American detente and the recently concluded Helsinki Accords, the latter 
remarked that Moscow’s strategy to politically seduce Western Europe was “to foster the Christian 
Democrats. . .and then to encourage the Communist parties to merge with them.” Kissinger responded, 
“Yes. This is why the Italian Christian Democrats are no barrier to the expansion of Soviet influence as 
they cooperate with the Communist Party. But as long as Schmidt is Chancellor in the Federal Republic, 
this cannot happen in Germany.” He also told the foreign minister that Schmidt was a “good man” and 
“very strong as a leader,” and that he had known the West German since 1975 when “we were both 
considered promising young men.” “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: The Soviet Union; CSCE; 
Europe; Japan; Angola; Indochina; The President’s China Trip; The Global Strategic Situation; Korea,” 
September 28, 1975, p. 16 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive. 

508 Despite what Kissinger described as his and Nixon’s grave reservations about Chancellor Willy Brandt’s 
Ostpolitik, they eventually came to accept it because the alternative - opposing the policy - risked 
rupturing NATO. Kissinger believed that Brandt “had no emotional attachment to the Atlantic Alliance” 
and might even be committed to unraveling the postwar order in Europe. Kissinger, Diplomacy, 745. 
Brandt actively pursued his Eastern-oriented policy with notable successes, including a non-aggression pact 
with the Soviet Union in 1970, a West German-Polish treaty recognizing the integrity of the Oder-Neisse 
border, and finally, negotiations with the East Germans resulting in mutual recognition in December 1972. 



368 


headquarters from Paris to Brussels, Belgium. Despite American objections, France had 
also developed its own independent strategic ballistic missile force (the Force de Frappe). 
Added to the continuing French thorn in Washington’s NATO side was Kissinger’s 
“grave” concern about the effects of Eurocommunism on the future of the Western 
alliance and the status of Portugal’s NATO membership as that nation moved ever 
leftward through successive provisional governments. 

It becomes clear, then, why the Secretary of State was pleased about the Western 
European, and especially the French, response to the American involvement in Angola. 
For him, no doubt, it represented a welcome situation, as the United States had the 
opportunity to reassert its leadership with the Western Europeans and revive the 
American-French relationship. It showed the allies that despite both domestic and global 
distractions the United States was still ready, willing and able to carry out its super-power 
responsibilities. Moreover, it demonstrated that the sometimes-recalcitrant allies were 
willing to get back onboard with American policy, at least for the Angolan enterprise . 509 


509 The American-Western European effort to discredit the Portuguese Communist Party can also be viewed 
from the perspective of the United States, recovering from a series of external and domestic crises, 
reasserting its traditional leadership role in the Western Alliance. In August 1975, in an interview with 
U.S. News & World Report, President Ford denied any CIA involvement despite both Soviet and Western 
European aid to the factions competing for power in Portugal. “1 think it’s very tragic that, because of the 
C.I.A. investigation and all the limitations placed on us in the area of covert operation, we aren’t able to 
participate with other Western European countries... The American people shouldn’t handicap themselves 
from meeting the challenge, as we were handicapped in South Vietnam and as we are handicapped in trying 
to be a participant in Portugal.” Leslie H. Gelb, “U.S., Soviet, China Reported Aiding Portugal, Angola,” 
New York Times, September 25, 1975, 22. The CIA had actually been involved in Portugal, through its 



369 


This was, however, a positive step in repairing the United States’ relationship with the 
Atlantic Alliance and the French, which had suffered during the long American 
engagement in South Vietnam. 

President Giscard d’Estaing was a key component of the American policy in Angola 
because of France’s military and diplomatic contributions to the effort. In referring to his 
discussion on the Angolan situation with Giscard while he was in Paris in mid-December 
1975, Kissinger noted, “I reviewed the situation in Angola over dinner with. . .Giscard 
d’Estaing. France had a special interest in French-speaking Africa, with whose 
governments it maintained closer relationships and whose internal security it protected 
more assiduously than any other former colonial power. . .And Zaire, though a former 


long-time association with Western European Socialist and Social Democratic parties and labor unions, 
since at least April 1975, although in this article Gelb reported he was told by a government source that 
Ford and Kissinger had made the decision in late May, “after they went to Brussels for a NATO 
meeting . . .It was after consultations with heads of state there. . .that they saw how strongly the West 
European leaders felt about maintaining a non-Communist Portugal.” Ibid. Mr. Ford, of course, knew of 
the CIA’s involvement in Portugal and had nearly blown the operation in mid-September during an 
interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. Gelb reported that a government source had told him that during 
the interview, the president had responded thusly to a question about the CIA and Portugal. “In Portugal, 
he noted ‘our strong stand’ along with NATO allies against a Communist government in Lisbon, then said: 
‘I don’t think the situation required us to have a major C.I.A. involvement, which we have not had.” The 
last sentence, of course, implies that the CIA was involved in Portugal, but only in a “minor way.” Ibid. 
The point is, both President Ford and Henry Kissinger saw an opportunity not only to try to reverse 
Portugal’s leftist trend, but also to reassert American leadership through cooperative efforts with the NATO 
allies. This was important in countering what they believed was a perception of the United States as “a 
helpless giant” in the aftermath of Watergate and Vietnam, and the ensuing malaise and neo-isolationist 
tendencies of both the Democratic Congress and the American public. 



370 


Belgium colony, was French speaking .” 510 Kissinger detailed the assistance the French 
government was prepared to give, including French African or Moroccan troops, French 
helicopters equipped with air-to-surface missiles, fighter aircraft for Zaire, and the 
assistance of the French intelligence services to coordinate their effort with that of the 
United States . 511 


510 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 822. Kissinger thought most highly of the French president. He described 
Giscard, as “charming, warm, and brilliant, “during their Paris dinner engagement. With obvious 
admiration for Giscard’ s global realism, he wrote,” The heirs of Richelieu’s statecraft had no confidence in 
pious declarations of good will or of ‘keeping Africa out of the Cold War.’” Ibid., 823, 822. Kissinger 
failed to mention that the French supportive stance may have stemmed not only from their concern over the 
Soviet Union’s involvement in Angola, but also from the fact that the French had extensive investments in 
Zaire, and like Mobutu, were very interested in the future of Cabinda, where the American Gulf Oil 
company enjoyed a virtual monopoly. Leslie Gelb reported that Ford Administration officials told him that 
France involved itself in Angola, not so much to please the Americans, as to indulge Mobutu, and because 
of their interest in Cabinda oil. One of them noted, “The French are the only European Government with 
an African policy, and they have big plans for Zaire.” Leslie H. Gelb, “U.S. Aides Tell of Covert European 
Help to Angolans,” New York Times, March 10, 1976, 3. John Stockwell supports this assessment, writing 
that France viewed the Angolan conflict as an opportunity “to ingratiate itself with Mobutu.” Stockwell, In 
Search of Enemies, 192. Kissinger undoubtedly surmised that the realist Giscard was looking out for 
French interests first when he agreed to assist the American effort. Still, it didn’t matter what the primary 
motivation for French support of the American policy in Angola was. It was most important that they 
supported it, were willing to materially contribute to the pro-Western factions, and were cooperating with, 
rather than opposing, the United States. 

511 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 824. John Stockwell’s description of the actual extent of the French 
support considerably deflates Kissinger’s optimistic account. Also, it reveals that at least the intelligence 
services of the United States and France were cooperating for four months prior to Kissinger’s December 
meeting with Giscard. Stockwell wrote that General Vernon Walters, the Deputy CIA, met with high-level 
French intelligence officials in August 1975. This meeting may have included Count Alexandre de 
Marenches, whom Kissinger described as the “daring and imaginative chief of intelligence, “ who 
“Throughout the Angolan enterprise... had given invaluable advice and, on occasion, technical assistance.” 
Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 822. Stockwell alleges Walters promised the French $250,000 “as proof of 
the United States’ good faith in Angola. The money was delivered, although it was clear to no one, 
possibly not even to General Walters, why the United States had to prove its good faith in Angola to the 
French.” Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 192. He does support the delivery of the promised military 
hardware, stating the French supplied anti-tank missiles, mortars and ammunition for Mobutu’s Panhard 
armored cars. Still, the French asked the CIA to deliver this equipment to Kinshasa from France. As 



371 


Kissinger highlighted his satisfaction with the Western European response to the 
American policy in Angola in several meetings with President Ford in December 1975. 
During that month, the situation in Angola continued to deteriorate for the pro-Westem 
factions, despite the presence of at least 2,000 South African combatants in south and 
central Angola with UNITA and Daniel Chipenda’ s FNLA force and advisers with 
Holden Roberto’s FNFA in the north. Further, in Washington, the Senate debate on the 
Tunney Amendment pointed toward a vote that would cut off further funding to the anti- 
MPFA coalition. 

Despite these setbacks, Kissinger optimistically (at least for him) reviewed the 
Angolan situation with the president, within the context of the state of American-West 
European relations, especially the improving American-French entente. On December 
18, he apprised Ford of his meeting with Giscard (on December 16), informing him of the 
French president’s promise to provide assistance to the pro-Western factions. “He is 
concerned about Angola. They will recruit mercenaries, provide gunships, and put 
Mirages in Zaire,” adding, “Your relations with Giscard are fantastic.” He then reflected 
on the general condition of the United States’ relationship with various regions of the 
world , but again zeroing in on Western Europe. “With Europe it is great; Angola is no 


promised, they also supplied four missile-equipped helicopters, again delivered by the CIA, but none of the 
aircraft had pilots or ground crews. Ibid. 



372 


problem with them. . .The NATO meeting was terrific - they showed a degree of unity 

c r o 

which is unprecedented.” 

The next day, President Ford was informed of the favorable Senate vote on the 
Tunney Amendment while hosting a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir. 
Kissinger was incensed, and again voiced his belief that the Angolan conflict was not 
about Angola, as such, but about American credibility and leadership. He asked, “What 
does this do for us in the world?” Before the president had a chance to answer the 
apparently rhetorical question, Kissinger continued on, emphasizing the importance of 
American resolve in Angola to the Western alliance. “We were getting support from 

CIO 

NATO for a policy outside Europe, for the first time.” 

Perhaps the clearest affirmation of the importance Washington attached to a 
demonstration of its resolve in Angola with the condition of American leadership of the 


512 “Memorandum of Conversation,” December 18, 1975, p. 1, 3 National Security Adviser - Memoranda 
of Conversation, 1973-1977, December 18, 1975 - Ford, Kissinger, Scowcroft, Box 17, Gerald R. Ford 
Library. President Ford, too, was pleased with the French response to the American policy in Angola. In 
discussing the Angolan crisis in his memoirs, he specifically mentions the French, and no other Western 
European nation, writing, “The French agreed to work in conjunction with us.” After the Tunney 
Amendment vote, he singled out France yet again by noting, “The French backed off, unwilling to act 
alone.” Ford, A Time to Heal, 345. Other Western Europeans also contributed - at modest levels - to the 
American effort in Angola, although the French involvement, if somewhat exaggerated by Kissinger, 
apparently exceeded those of America’s NATO Allies, most notably the British, the West Germans and the 
Belgians. For a brief discussion of Western European involvement in Angola, see Leslie H. Gelb, “U.S. 
Aides Tell of Covert European Help to Angolans,” New York Times, March 10, 1976, 3, and Pat Hutton and 
Jonathan Bloch, “What Britain Did in Angola,” in Dirty Work 2: The CIA in Africa, ed. Ellen Ray, 

William Schaap, and Karl Van Meter (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1979), 236-243. 

513 “Memorandum of Conversation,” December 19, 1975, p. 3, National Security Adviser - Memoranda of 
Conversation, 1973-1977, December 19, 1975 - Ford, Kissinger, Golda Meir, Box 17, Gerald R. Ford 
Library. 



373 


Western Alliance came in Kissinger’s heated discussion with the top leadership of his 
own State Department in December. This meeting came shortly after he and President 
Ford returned from an early December trip to Asia, including China and Indonesia. 
While in Jakarta, President Ford had agreed to the imminent Indonesian invasion of the 
Portuguese colony of East Timor, then mostly controlled by the leftist FRETILIN 
movement, including the use of American-furnished arms in the assault . 514 Kissinger 
first berated those in attendance about their disagreement with him on the Indonesian 
issue and the fact that they had put their reservations in a cable to him while he was still 
abroad, suggesting the contents would sooner or later be leaked. 

He then turned the discussion to Angola and the escalating leaks on that issue. 
Kissinger asked the question, probably intended for Deputy Secretary of State Robert 
Ingersoll, if William Schaufele (AF) had been called on the carpet and told to get his 
house in order. Not waiting for an answer, he continued, “This is not minor league stuff. 


514 The Portuguese colony of East Timor occupied nearly one-half of Timor, the eastern-most island in the 
Indonesian archipelago. The Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor, FRETILIN, the most 
successful of a number of contenders to succeed the colonial authority, was a nationalist, leftist movement 
which patterned itself on Mozambique’s FRELIMO. Joseph Lelyveld, “Portuguese Timor Ponders 
Uncertain Fate,” New York Times, October 19, 1974, 2. Mark Hertsgaard, a critic of the American 
Secretary of State, wrote that the Indonesian invasion occurred on December 7, 1975, just one day after 
President Ford and Henry Kissinger departed Jakarta. He further noted, “The Indonesians did comply with 
an American request to delay their attack until Air Force One was well clear of Jakarta, but they alarmed 
State Department officials by making extensive use of U.S. -supplied military equipment. This violated 
American law, which mandated that such equipment be employed only in self-defense.” Mark Hertsgaard, 
“The Secret Life of Henry Kissinger (Minutes of a 1975 Meeting with Lawrence Eagleburger),” The Nation 
251, no. 14 [database on-line]; available from Expanded Academic ASAP. 



374 


We are going to lose big. I go to a NATO meeting and meanwhile the Department leaks 
that we’re worried about a [Soviet] naval base and says it’s an exaggeration or aberration 
of Kissinger’s. I don’t care about the oil or the base but I do care. . .if the Europeans then 
say to themselves if they can’t hold Luanda, how can they defend Europe ?” 515 

Credibility and the Washington-Beijing Relationship 

Another and probably equally important detail in the credibility of commitment 
argument - one that can only be ascertained, again, by private discussions and not in 
public statements - surfaced during this same meeting. This involved the rising strains in 
the Sino-American relationship, and the repercussions for global stability and the new 
structure of peace if the Kissinger-built strategic triangle came apart. 

A strong, collaborative Washington-Beijing relationship was, of course, crucial to the 
intricate manipulation required for an effective triangular diplomacy. Playing the “China 
card” had proved a reliable tactic in convincing the Soviet Union that an easing of 
tensions with the United States was important, especially in light of increasing Sino- 
Soviet tensions. Hence, Kissinger saw keeping China engaged in his triangular 
architecture as important leverage against the Kremlin. 


515 State Department, “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: Department Policy,” December 18, 1975. 
This memorandum, in its complete form, was published in Mark Hertsgaard, “The Secret Life of Henry 
Kissinger.” 



375 


For these reasons, during that contentious December meeting in Washington, D.C. 
with his inner circle of foreign policy advisers, the architect of American foreign policy 
gave equal importance to the Chinese and West European perception of American 
credibility, which, from his viewpoint, was now being tested in Angola. Literally in the 
same breath as his comments on the European reaction to any sign of weakness in 
American staying power in the conflict, Kissinger referred to President Ford’s recent 
conversations with Chairman Mao and Vice Premier Deng. “The president says to the 
Chinese that we’re going to stand firm in Angola and two weeks later we get out. 
[Reference to the Europeans] The Chinese will say we’re a country that was run out of 
Indochina for 50,000 men and is now being run out of Angola for less than $50 
million.” 516 

The history of Kissinger’s concern over the state of the Sino- American relationship 
dated back to at least late 1974. As previously discussed, following the Ford-Brezhnev 
Vladivostok arms agreement in November, Kissinger visited Beijing where he received a 
cool reception from Vice Premier Deng. By that time, the American-Chinese entente had 
come to a near standstill. Beijing appeared to be in little hurry to move forward on the 
understandings and agreements of the 1972 Shanghai Communique, especially in light of 
the American reticence in the normalization process and the Chinese domestic succession 


516 


Ibid. 



376 


issue. During Kissinger’s brief stay, he and Deng agreed that it would be beneficial for 
President Ford to visit Beijing sometime during the coming year, but they accomplished 
little else. 

The Chinese had also become increasingly critical of Soviet- American detente and the 
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) negotiations, which led to the 
1975 Helsinki accords, publicly attacking both as appeasement of the Soviet Union. 
Kissinger was concerned, even sometimes indignant, about these attacks and aggressively 
defended the American position. In the several meetings leading up to President Ford’s 
visit in December 1975, he parried the Chinese attacks on detente by noting that the 
Chinese talked a lot, but did very little in the way of action. In contrast, he argued that 
the United States had been very active in resisting Soviet moves. In a preparatory visit to 
China in October 1975, for example, he told Deng, “You believe in taking a public 
posture of great intransigence, though you do not necessarily act. . .We believe in taking a 
more flexible posture publicly, but we resist in any part of the world towards where the 
Soviet Union stretches out its hands. Therefore, in the Middle East, in Angola, in 
Portugal and in other places we have been quite active in order to prevent Soviet 
expansion.” 517 


517 “Memorandum of Conversation (between Vice Premier Deng and Secretary of State Kissinger),” 
October 20, 1975, p. 7 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, China 
Collection. Kissinger reported the crux of his less-than-cordial meeting with Deng to President Ford the 



377 


During the same conversation, Deng questioned the value of the Helsinki accords, 
which he referred to as the “European Insecurity Conference,” again attacking them as a 
form of appeasement of the USSR. He asked Kissinger for his assessment of the possible 
consequences of the agreements. Kissinger downplayed their importance. “I do not 
believe. . .It is one point where I do not agree, where our assessments are totally different. 
I do not agree the Helsinki Conference was a significant event. In America it has had no 
impact whatever. . .In Western Europe. . .it may have had some minor negative impact in a 
minority of countries. In France, Britain, and The Federal Republic it has had no 

518 

impact. . ..I do not think we should proclaim Soviet victories that do not exist.” 


next day, noting in part that he had sharply rebutted Deng’s comparison of detente and the Helsinki accords 
to Chamberlain’s appeasement policy at Munich. First, he told Deng that Ford’s strategic approach to the 
Soviet Union was similar, if not even tougher, than Nixon’s. “In any event, both presidents, I emphasized, 
had no illusions about Soviet intentions and had demonstrated a consistent willingness to resist pressures 
when necessary. I pointedly questioned the basis of our bilateral relations with Peking if it genuinely 
thought that we were appeasing Moscow... I recalled the 1971 South Asian sub-continent crisis where we 
made some symbolic military moves in support of Pakistan while China did nothing. This was to remind 
Teng that while the Chinese were strong on rhetoric, we alone have been taking concrete actions vis-a-vis 
the Soviet Union.” “Memorandum for the President, Subject: Secretary’s talks with Chinese Officials,” 
October 21, 1975, pp. 3-4 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, China 
Collection. 

518 Ibid., p. 15. Kissinger then characterized the American role in the Helsinki process by noting that it was 
“essentially passive,” an argument he had made to Deng in their earlier meeting in November 1974. Ibid. 
He had taken the same line with Chinese Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua in a September 1975 meeting in 
New York City, where the latter spoke before the UN General Assembly. That meeting laid the initial 
groundwork for President Ford’s visit to China. It proved to be more contentious than cordial. The 
discussion first focused on the Soviet Union and what both men agreed was its attempt to politically 
undermine the will of the Western European to resist its superficial peace overtures. Within this context, 
Qiao severely criticized the recently concluded Helsinki accords and the American role in the negotiations 
process, especially its leadership. “I would not like to mention highly controversial points. . .But I should 
mention the Helsinki Conference. We do not see why it was necessary for you to take such a step. Why 
didn’t you delay? I do not know why you permit them to take such a form which is of need to the Soviet 



378 


The increasing Chinese attacks on both Soviet- American and European detente 
concerned Kissinger, not only on their own account, but also because they were related to 
what he considered the most serious threat to the continued viability of the Washington- 
Beijing connection and thus to the effectiveness of triangular diplomacy . 519 This threat 
was the changing Chinese perception of the American role as a world leader, especially 
its willingness and capability to counter the hegemonic aspirations of the Soviet Union, 
or the “Social Imperialists,” as Mao preferred to label his Communist rival. As Kissinger 


Union.” Kissinger then justified the American participation from an historical standpoint by telling the 
foreign minister that the CSCE negotiations had started more than ten years ago, that the United States only 
took part during the past three years, and that the American entry into the process was “a safety valve. . .for 
other problems.” He then told Qiao that he was overestimating the impact of the accords, and that the 
Soviet Union gained little if anything from them. At this point, the foreign minister turned the discussion 
into a lecture. He stated that he was not exaggerating the effects of the accords, noting that certain 
American newspaper had “almost” compared them to Munich in 1939, apparently an analogy that also 
matched his own perspective on the agreements, and that the Soviet Union would no doubt make good 
political propaganda from the results. One can deduce from Qiao’s negative assessment of Helsinki, as 
well as the follow-on discussion of the Eurocommunist parties, whom he noted benefited from the 
“illusionary” European detente created by the accords, that he viewed the American participation, as well 
as its leadership, as less than stellar in this instance. He suggested that the Helsinki accords helped the 
Soviet Union in achieving its political objective of undermining the unity of the Western Alliance, one 
nation at a time, and turning “the area into a Finland.” This latter pronouncement - the “Finlandization” of 
Western Europe - followed on the heels of Kissinger’s same remarks on the subject. So, the two diplomats 
agreed on this issue and also agreed that preparations should continue for the president’s visit. Other than 
that, there was more disagreement than accord. Moreover, Kissinger’s very on-the-defensive justification 
of the American role in the Helsinki process and his assessment of its effects indicate that he sensed the 
Chinese were unsettled not only about Helsinki, but also about the lack of strong American leadership in 
the process. 

519 Kissinger told President Ford, in preparation for his trip to China, that Beijing’s attacks on detente and 
the Helsinki Conference really concerned the Chinese fear that “these developments will tend to isolate 
them politically and strengthen their major enemy.” However, publicly, these fears were expressed as a 
growing propensity to characterize them both as “outright appeasement of a growing Soviet threat to the 
security of the US and Europe (and the PRC).” “Memorandum for the President, Subject: Your Trip to the 
People’s Republic of China: A Scope Analysis for Your Discussions with Chinese Leaders,” November 
20, 1975, p. 2 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, China Collection. 



379 


explained to President Ford in preparation for his visit to Beijing, the Chinese appeared to 
be more agitated about detente than in the past because they perceived a weakening of 
resolve by the United States both as a result of the Communist victory in Southeast Asia 
and the recent upheavals in the American domestic political situation. He told the 
president: 


There are several reasons for the current tension in our relationship 
with the Chinese. Probably the primary cause is a growing doubt in 
Peking that the United States is capable of playing the kind of major 
world role which will provide an effective counterweight to Moscow’s 
efforts to project the Soviet presence abroad and to bring about a geo- 
political encirclement of China. In the wake of the Communist victories 
in Indochina this past spring, PRC media began to express in explicit 
terms a concern with the ‘strategic passivity’ of the United States. 

Peking apparently believes that our domestic political situation is in 
such turmoil. . .that the United States is increasingly incapable of playing 
a coherent role in world affairs. To the degree that the Chinese down- 
grade our importance as a world power, or develop doubts about our 
ability to pursue our own interests abroad, they will question the 
significance of the relationship we have established over the past four 


As with the Western Europeans, Kissinger believed that the United States needed to 
provide a demonstration of American leadership and resolve in Angola for the 


520 Ibid. Kissinger also listed the normalization question as a reason for “some” strain in Chinese-American 
relations. While not dismissing the issue as unimportant, he told Ford that it was clearly secondary to 
“strategic international considerations. These have always been the primary emphasis of our discussions in 
Peking. As recently as my conversation with Mao last month, he said that the big issue is the international 
situation and the small issue is Taiwan.” Ibid., 4-5. Among the issues that Kissinger included as part of the 
“turmoil” of American domestic politics were: Nixon’s resignation; Congress’s reassertion of its own 
prerogatives in foreign policy, which “hobbled” the Executive Branch’s options; and “the nihilistic mood of 
our press.” Ibid., 2. 



380 


increasingly skeptical Chinese leaders. A vigorous course of action would help convince 
them that the United States was back in command of its global responsibilities, despite its 
recent setback in Southeast Asia and its own succession crisis, that it was not about to 
abandon its role as the leader of the anti-Soviet bloc, and that it was actively reasserting 
its dominant position in the Western Alliance. 

The Chinese, from their own perspective, seemed to be thinking along the same lines. 
Prior to the Ford- Kissinger visit to China, where they arrived on December 1, the official 
Chinese news agency, NCNA, provided its journalistic staff with the reasons for the visit. 
The deputy editor-in-chief, an individual by the name of Huang, first cautioned the news 
reporters that no major breakthrough in Chinese- American relations was expected. He 
then noted, “The PRC will use the talks to increase normalization of Sino-US relations 
and to isolate further the ‘Soviet revisionists.’” Finally, Huang “explained that the 
American purpose. . .was to demonstrate to the Chinese that the US is the architect of 
Western foreign policy and retains the influence and power to lead the Western 
nations.” 521 

Chinese doubts about the United States’ ability to fully revitalize its global leadership 

role following the disaster to American foreign policy in Southeast Asia the previous 

spring, as well as its domestic political difficulties, were of major concern both during 

521 State Department, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Morning Summary, “Intelligence Summary,” p. 
1, Dale Van Atta Papers, Intelligence Documents, December 3, 1975, Box 9, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



381 


Kissinger’s preparatory visit to China and President Ford’s subsequent trip. From 
Beijing, in October, he told the president that the Chinese had become increasingly 
suspicious of American motives, capabilities and staying power. Still, on a more positive 
note, he also told Ford that Beijing’s worries about the Soviet Union still gave the United 
States great leverage in triangular diplomacy. “After all, despite all the protestations of 
self reliance, they feel exposed and no one but the U.S. can help provide the balance.” 
Hence, he saw reason to believe that the Chinese would not simply “jettison” the bilateral 
relationship with the United States. 

From that perspective, Kissinger surmised that Deng’s lengthy lecture to him during 
his visit could be taken both as “a pep talk,” intended to bolster American tenacity against 
the “Socialist Imperialists,” and as a contrasting skepticism about American leadership 
and resolve. So, as he told President Ford, in the final analysis, “only actions, not words, 
will impress the Chinese.” 

President Ford Meets the Chinese Leadership 

Because of his assessment of the meeting with Deng, in his detailed pre-trip briefing 
paper to President Ford, Kissinger emphasized the need to project toughness toward the 
Soviet Union in a rebuttal of Chinese criticism that the United States was pursuing 

522 “Memorandum for the President, Subject: Secretary’s Talks with Chinese Officials,” October 21, 1975, 
p. 5. President Ford, no doubt, agreed with Kissinger’s assessment about the importance of actions to 
enhancing one’s credibility. During the Mayaguez incident of the previous spring, he had spoken in just 
such terms himself. 



382 


COT 

detente “from a position of apparent weakness rather than strength.” “ President Ford 
did not disappoint his Secretary of State. In his December 2 meeting with the seriously 
ill Chairman Mao, he used forceful language in attacking the Soviet Union. This was 
apparently aimed at convincing the Chinese leader that the United States was prepared to 
resist Soviet hegemony, not only with words but also with military actions if necessary, 
and that the United States would “continue to keep the pressure on them.” 

The next day, in his discussion with Vice Premier Deng, he reiterated his argument 
that the United States had been energetic in countering Soviet expansionism, pointing out 
that Washington had challenged Moscow in a number of cases, including the latest Cold 
War flashpoint - Angola - and would continue to do so. In taking the Kissinger- 
recommended “tough line,” including detailing specific instances where the United States 
had acted to counter the Soviet Union, President Ford no doubt hoped to allay Chinese 
concerns about American weakness. 


523 “Memorandum for the President, Subject: Your Trip to the People’s Republic of China: A Scope 
Analysis for Your Discussions with Chinese Leaders,’’ p. 3. This was President Ford’s second visit to 
China, but first as the president. He had previously visited the country in the summer of 1972 with a 
congressional delegation. 

524 “Memorandum of Conversation (between Chairman Mao and President Ford),” December 2, 1975, pp. 
6-8 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, China Collection. During the 
meeting, Mao’s conversation was interrupted by several coughing episodes and a nurse attended to him 
throughout the discussions. 

2 “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: The Soviet Union; Europe; The Middle East; South Asia; 
Angola,” December 3, 1975, pp. 3-5 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, 
China Collection. 



383 


Probably to underscore his argument that the United States had not been strategically 
passive, even while the Chinese had been relatively inactive, Ford shifted his polemical 
tactics. He asked the vice premier what the Chinese were doing, and where, to meet the 
Soviet threat. Not wanting to appear too argumentative, he tempered his question in such 
a way that it appeared to be less an accusation of Chinese passivity than an American 
desire to better understand and explore where the two countries could act “in parallel to 
counter the Soviet challenge.” 526 Following Mao’s line on this question, Vice Premier 
Deng responded, “with some visible tension in his face,” that China was making its own 
self-reliant preparations and “firing some empty cannons,” although this latter action 
included encouragement to Japan and Western Europe to strengthen their relationship 
with the United States. 527 

After a tour d’ horizon on Chinese diplomatic initiatives, the subject turned to a 
lengthy discussion of Angola, where in October 1975, the Chinese had terminated their 
training mission to the FNLA. Ford and Kissinger seemed to be fishing for a Chinese 


32b Ibid., p. 4. 

527 Ibid. pp. 4-5. In his December 2 meeting with Mao, Ford had told him that the United States and China 
needed to coordinate their efforts against the Soviet Union in order “to achieve what is good for both of 
us.” The chairman replied, “We do not have much ability. We can only fire such empty cannons.” 
“Memorandum of Conversation (between Chairman Mao and President Ford),” December 2, 1975, p. 2 
328 The following is a very brief overview of the Chinese involvement with Angola’s two pro-Western 
liberation movements during the 1970s. In 1973, both Zairian President Mobutu and Holden Roberto 
visited Beijing. These two trips apparently laid the groundwork for Chinese assistance to both Zaire and 
the FNLA. Beijing’s support for the latter, including arms and the assignment of a military training group, 
began in early June 1974 when the first contingent of trainers arrived in Kinshasa. According to press 



384 


reports, they, along with over 100 Zairian elite paratroopers, were to train up to 15,000 FNLA guerrillas. 
China was to provide arms for two-thirds of this force (that is, 10,000 combatants), while Zaire was to 
equip the other 5,000. “Chinese to Help Train Angolans in Zaire,” Washington Post , June 3, 1974, sec. A, 
p. 17. The article reported the entire contingent of Chinese trainers/advisers was expected to total 1 12, 
although John Marcum and others have put the number at 120 advisers. Marcum also testified before 
Senator Clark’s early 1976 subcommittee hearings that the total arms package amounted to 400 tons, citing 
press reports as the basis for his estimate. Later, however, in his study of Angola and citing additional 
press reports, he increased the amount of arms delivered to 450 tons. See Senate, Subcommittee on African 
Affairs, Angola, February 4, 1976, 129, on his testimony, and Marcum, The Angolan Revolution, vol. II, 
Exile Politics and Guerrilla Warfare (1962-1976), 246 and note 42, 428. Together with Zairian trainers and 
arms, this represented a substantial investment in the FNLA. The State Department, however, attempted to 
downplay the Chinese assistance. In testimony on February 6, 1976, Edward Mulcahy, of AF, declared, 
“We are unaware that the Chinese provided very large quantities of weapons to the FNLA. They did have 
a military training mission.” Senator Clark, having previously heard Dr. Marcum’s testimony on the same 
subject, was dissatisfied with this assessment. The State Department then submitted a written statement 
which read, in part, “Between May 1974 and October 1975, a group of Chinese military instructors trained 
an estimated 5,000 FNLA troops and equipped them with small arms (AK-47 rifles, machine guns, rocket 
propelled grenades and light mortars).” The statement also noted that during the same time frame, the PRC 
had additionally provided “limited” quantities of arms and financial assistance to Jonas Savimbi, but did 
not, or could not, be more specific on the levels of Chinese aid to UNITA. Senate, Subcommittee on 
African Affairs, Angola, February 6, 1976, 184-185. This Chinese aid to both, of course, began and was 
running full throttle dining the period when the Soviet Union had ceased its support for the MPLA, which 
only recommenced in the fall of 1974 after an eighteen-month hiatus. Raymond Garthoff alleges that 
despite Beijing’s initial commitment to the FNLA, as early as June 1975 they told Roberto that their 
support, including the training contingent, would end by the scheduled November 1 1 independence. He 
opines that the Chinese took this decision because they recognized the obvious incompetence of the FNLA, 
based upon the movement’s inept showing against the largely out-manned and out-gunned MPLA forces in 
the spring of 1975, despite the nearly year’s worth of Chinese training. Further, he notes, Beijing didn’t 
want to be too closely linked with what they saw (correctly) as the FNLA’s eventual defeat. Garthoff, 
Detente and Confrontation, 569. In late October, after the large-scale South African invasion had begun, 
the Chinese withdrew all of their advisers, determined, as Garthoff wrote, “not to be associated with the 
side collaborating with South Africa.” Ibid. On the same subject, see also Marcum, The Angolan 
Revolution, vol. II, Exile politics and Guerrilla Warfare (1962-1976), 264-266; Klinghoffer, The Angolan 
War, 105, and Valenta, “Soviet Decision-Making on the Intervention in Angola,” 103. Later, probably in 
November 1975, the Chinese did try to provide more arms to UNITA, using Tanzania as the transshipment 
point. Julius Nyerere, the Tanzanian president, refused to allow the weapons to pass through his territory, 
again as a consequence of the South African-UNITA alliance. “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: 
The Soviet Union; Europe; The Middle East; South Asia; Angola,” December 3, 1975, pp. 20-21. Some 
Chinese arms apparently did reach UNITA in November 1975, but not via Tanzania. The CIA, citing a 
South African account, reported that a Chinese vessel had transferred cargo to trawlers off the Angolan 
coast and estimated that the cache was destined for UNITA; the South African reported no further 
deliveries. At the same time, the Agency also reported that the Chinese may have given Zaire permission 
to release small amounts of its own Chinese-provided weapons to the FNLA. Central Intelligence Agency, 



385 


recommitment to the pro-Western factions, especially in the area of further training. To 
this end, Kissinger played the French card, pointing out that the French were sending 
both equipment and trainers to the FNLA. President Ford then told Deng that before he 
left Washington he had approved an additional $35 million for both the FNLA and 
UNITA, confirming, no doubt intentionally, the existence of the by-now not so covert 

con 

CIA operation in Angola. “ Both Ford and Kissinger argued that along with the 
promised French assistance and increased American support, additional Chinese training 

con 

could help turn the tide against the Soviet- and Cuban- supported MPLA. Ford made 


National Intelligence Bulletin, December 11, 1975, “China-Angola,” p. 6 [Database on-line]; available 
from Digital National Security Archive. 

529 The president told both Mao and Deng that he had approved the $35 million just before departing for 
Beijing. He also told Deng, “that amount is on its way as I understand it.” “Memorandum of 
Conversation, Subject: The Soviet Union, Europe; The Middle East; South Asia; Angola,” December 3, 
1975, p. 22. In fact, as previously discussed, he had approved an additional $28 million, and it was far 
from on its way. President Ford was apparently under the impression that the money would simply be 
reprogrammed within the Defense Department’s budget and, as in the past, such action could be 
accomplished with the approval of only the Chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. 
Since conservative, “friendly” Democrats - Representative George Mahon (D-TX) and Senator John 
McClellan (D-AR) - headed both committees. Ford believed that his request would be routinely approved. 
This did not happen. As Kissinger explained, “Congress had changed dramatically since Ford left it only 
two years earlier. . .the chairmen were gunshy about exercising the discretionary authority they had 
previously enjoyed." Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 826. Ultimately, as we have seen, the $28 million ran 
up against Senator Clark and his African Affairs subcommittee and was denied by both houses of Congress. 

530 In his memoirs, Kissinger wrote that Giscard d’Estaing promised French arms and trainers when the two 
met in Paris on December 16, 1975. As previously noted, John Stockwell alleges that American-French 
cooperation began at least as early as August 1975 when General Walters met with representatives of the 
French intelligence service. But in Beijing on December 3, nearly two weeks before Kissinger’s Paris 
meeting with the French president, he clearly told the Chinese, “We are working with France. They will 
send some equipment and training.” “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: The Soviet Union; Europe; 
The Middle East; South Asia; Angola,” December 3, 1975, p. 22. His statement to the Chinese at least 
partially confirms Stockwell’ s assertion of cooperation between the United States and France essentially 
from the earliest days of the active American involvement in the Angolan conflict. The French president’s 
December promise of aid, as told to Kissinger, probably amounted to an increase, either qualitatively or 



386 


this escalation of the Western commitment very clear to Vice Premier Deng, as if to show 
that the United States was out in front on the issue and also to probably cajole, or 
embarrass, the Chinese into a re-involvement. 

The American efforts were to no avail. The diplomatically sensitive Chinese were not 
about to recommit themselves to the Angolan factions now aligned with apartheid South 
Africa. Mao had told Ford that he was in favor of “driving the Soviet Union out” of 
Angola. However, Vice Premier Deng, after discussing the American urging for Chinese 
action in an aside with Mao, stated, “The complicating factor here is that of South Africa, 


quantitatively, or both, in French support. This speculation is supported by a December message from 
American Charge d’Affaires Walker, in Kinshasa. He told the State Department that Mobutu’s close 
adviser, Bisengimana, visited Paris in early December. He returned to Kinshasa on December 8, 
accompanied by Giscard counselor, Journiac, “who talked with Mobutu about increased French assistance 
to FNLA/UNITA.” American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 101445Z December 1975, Kinshasa 10582, 
“Subject: Angola: Bisengimana Foresees OAU Split,” p. 1, National Security Adviser - Presidential 
Country Files for Africa, 1974-1977, Zaire - State Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (3), Box 7, 
Gerald R. Ford Library. “Increased French assistance,” is, obviously, the operative phrase here. Further, 
Ambassador Russ, from Paris, reported on a meeting he had on December 5, 1975 with the same 
“Journiac.” Their discussions focused on the situation in Angola, including the South African invasion, the 
upcoming OAU meeting, and the increasing hostility and confrontations between Savimbi and Roberto. 

The meeting ended with the American ambassador stating, “I told Journiac that even in the case of South 
African withdrawal we are determined to continue our present common policy and hoped France intended 
to do the same. Journiac said indeed they would.” American Embassy Paris Telegram 051600Z January 

1976, “Subject: Angola,” p. 2, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, 1974- 

1977, Angola - Presidential Message, Box 2, Gerald R. Ford Library. On December 5, then, the American 
ambassador verified a cooperative, if not collaborative, French- American effort in Angola with the words, 
“continue our present common policy.” The Kissinger-Giscard meeting on December 16 probably 
enhanced that “common policy,” but it was not the starting point for the relationship. 



387 


the involvement of South Africa. This has offended the whole of black Africa. This 

c-i 1 

complicates the whole matter.” 

Instead of agreeing to a renewed Chinese effort, Vice Premier Deng urged the United 
States to do more. However, as he and Mao had previously told the Americans during 
the meeting on December 2, the Chinese would try to use their influence to get 
Mozambique to cease its support for the MPLA, or at the least, as Kissinger requested, to 
get that nation to remain neutral in the conflict. Vice Premier Deng held out little hope 
for this diplomatic initiative, stating, “Yesterday I said we could try with Mozambique, 

532 

but we don’t expect great results. 

In sum, despite vigorous lobbying from both President Ford and Kissinger, the 
Chinese would not commit themselves to further action in Angola. On this issue, as well 
as others, there had been no progress and no agreement. Given this outcome, the 
American effort to re-energize American leadership and credibility in the eyes of the 
Chinese had fallen short of its objective. Despite the setback, as noted by Jussi 
Hanhimaki, Kissinger appeared upbeat about the trip upon his return to Washington. In a 

531 “Memorandum of Conversation (between Chairman Mao and President Ford),” December 2, 1975, p. 

13. In Deng’s own talks with President Ford the next day, he restated the “problem associated with South 
Africa’s involvement.” He indicated to the Americans that, at least from the Chinese perspective, the South 
African presence inside Angola was the primary reason for the Chinese to stay out of the conflict. 

Kissinger then told the vice premier that the United States was prepared “to push South Africa out” once an 
alternative military force, probably referring to the hoped-for renewed Chinese effort and Western 
European support, could be established. Ibid., 19. The Chinese dismissed the idea. They had no intention 
of re-engaging in the conflict, which would ostensibly align them with racist South Africa. 

532 Ibid., 21. 



388 


December 10 meeting with a congressional delegation, he briefed that things had gone 
well in China and that the issue of Taiwan was not a major obstacle in the Chinese- 
American relationship. Rather, as he had also told President Ford in preparing for the 
Asian trip, the major issue was the international situation, and in this the Chinese saw 
eye-to-eye with the United States. He even called China “one of our best NATO allies.” 

COT 

Hanhimaki assesses this positive spin as “vintage Kissinger.” 

Angola and American Credibility: A Challenge and an Opportunity 

The foregoing discussion of the Angola- American credibility nexus suggests, first, 
that not only the Soviet Union, but also, and more importantly, Western Europe and the 
PRC were very much on Kissinger’s mind as the Angolan conflict escalated into an 
international crisis. He and the president attached enormous symbolic and substantive 
significance to both Western European and Chinese support for the American-led anti- 
MPLA coalition. It bore directly on the issue of restoring American credibility, 
especially in the aftermath of the war in Vietnam, and, hence, on the future of the 
nation’s super power status and global leadership role. 

Secondly, both undoubtedly saw the actions of the Soviet Union as a challenge to that 
role. 534 At the same time, and more importantly, Angola presented itself as an 


533 Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect, 419. 

534 The president and Kissinger probably also saw the Soviet involvement in Angola as a challenge to 
detente, especially as it effected, or emboldened, domestic critics of the policy. Both, especially Kissinger, 



389 


opportunity to convince friends and allies that the United States, despite its recent 
international and domestic difficulties, was back in charge of the anti-Soviet coalition. 
This side of the credibility issue, however, was mostly invisible to the Congress, the 
media, and the public. For public consumption, and in an effort to manufacture an after- 
the-fact consensus for its own intervention, spokesmen for the Ford Administration 
consistently argued that it was Soviet aggression and expansionist proclivities that had 
caused the Angolan crisis. Further, they painted American intentions as altruistic by 
contending that Washington’s objective was to allow the Angolans to determine their 
own future freely and not at the end of a Communist gun barrel. 

Pericentrism 

In attempting to understand why the United States became involved in Angola, the 
credibility argument - especially the commitment side as I have discussed - is 
compelling. Whether or not it represents the full explanation for the American decision 


had touted detente as a means to not only manage the emergence of the Communist nation to super-power 
status in such a way as to avoid not only a nuclear war, but also just the type of confrontational situation 
then brewing in Angola. 

535 Unlike the earlier Mayaguez affair, which President Ford, Kissinger, and others perceived as both a 
credibility challenge and opportunity, the Angolan crisis involved the main global antagonist - the Soviet 
Union. The opportunity to metaphorically “kill two birds with one stone,” that is, squaring off against the 
Russians as a means to simultaneously enhance American credibility, was a powerful magnet for the 
sometimes-bellicose Kissinger. Seymour Hersh addressed this important aspect of the American decision 
to intervene in Angola. Citing government sources who stressed Kissinger’s desire to “get tough” with the 
Soviet Union, Hersh wrote, “A number of State Department officials and other sources expressed anger at 
Mr. Kissinger’s decision to recommend direct United States involvement in Angola. ‘He was given the best 
advice there was and it didn’t fit what he wanted to do,’ one official said. ‘He wanted to face off with the 
Russians right there - in Angola.’” Seymour M. Hersh, “Angola-Aid Issue Opening Rifts in State 
Department,” New York Times , December 14, 1975, 2. 



390 


on Angola is, however, open to question. There is evidence, which I will discuss in the 
following pages, that a pericentric dynamic, either in the form of President Kaunda of 
Zambia or President Mobutu of Zaire, played an influential role in the decision to become 
involved in the gathering storm that was Angola in early 1975. As quoted at the 
beginning of this chapter, the Pike Committee reported that the Forty Committee’s 
January decision to give $300,000 to Holden Roberto’s FNLA came after a request from 
the Zairian leader. While the Committee did not evaluate the weight of the Zaire factor 
in the American decision to intervene, it did, if somewhat ambiguously, opine, “Dr. 
Kissinger’s desire to reward and protect African leaders in the area,” might have been a 
“paramount factor.” 536 

Moreover, the American-South African relationship merits consideration in this 
discussion of pericentrism. Given the sensitivity of that relationship, however, public 
access to many primary sources related to the nature of the Washington-Pretoria 
connection during the Angolan crisis is still very limited. Most of what we know comes 
not from American documents, but from the South Africans themselves. As we shall see, 
their motives for revealing their role in Angola, as it related to the United States, are 
probably shaded by what they perceived as an American betrayal. 


536 


The CIA Report the President Doesn’t Want to Read,” 85. 



391 


Pericentrism: The Zambian Ruse 

Kissinger and others often referred to the requests for American assistance from 
African friends, routinely mentioning both Zaire and Zambia in the same breath. In fact, 
as previously discussed in Chapter 5, he has given much of the credit to Zambian 
President Kaunda for spurring American action on the Angolan issue. “Only on the 
rarest occasions does a single state visit change American national policy. Yet President 
Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia managed to accomplish precisely that feat when he came to 
Washington on April 19, 1975. On that occasion, he convinced President Ford and me 
that the Soviet Union was intervening in Angola with military advisers and weapons and 
that we should oppose this intrusion for the sake of Angola’s neighbors.” 

There is a major problem with Kissinger’s assertion. Unless there is a still-classified, 
or hidden, version of the conversation between Ford and Kaunda, the declassified version 
does not substantiate Kissinger’s claim that Kaunda appealed for American involvement, 
especially not the sort of intervention that the United States eventually decided upon in 
July 1975. The Zambian president clearly expressed his concern over the escalating 
Angolan conflict and brought up the issue of Soviet support for the MPLA, all the while 
promoting the virtues of Jonas Savimbi as the compromise candidate. Rather than 
requesting active American assistance, however, he instead urged the United States to 

537 


Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 792. 



392 


take a wait-and-see position until after the scheduled October 31 elections to see if 

coo 

Savimbi might win. 

Moreover, Senator Dick Clark has strongly refuted any Zambian influence in the 
American decision to intervene, which supports my own assessment that President 
Kaunda did not ask for an active American role in Angola during his April visit. In a 
March 1976 interview on Meet the Press , about seven months after his fact-finding trip to 
southern Africa, Senator Clark was asked about the Ford Administration’s contention that 
both Zambia and Zaire had requested that the United States support the anti-MPLA 
movements in Angola. He responded, “I am not aware that Zambia urged us to do that. I 
have been told, at any rate, by President Kaunda’ s assistant that they did not do so. I 
have been told by the Zambian ambassador they did not.” The senator then added, 
“Certainly, Zaire did.” 539 

I believe that Henry Kissinger and other administration spokesmen used what I refer 
to as the “Zambian ruse” in their efforts to convince Congress and the public that several 
African “friends” - and not just Zaire as the Pike Committee alleged - had urgently 
appealed for American intervention to preclude a Communist takeover in Angola. This 


538 “Memorandum 0 f Conversation, Subject: Office Call on the President,” April 19, 1975, p. 6, National 
Security Adviser - Memoranda of Conversations, 1973-1977, Box 11, Gerald R. Ford Library. 

539 “Interview with Senator Dick Clark (D-Iowa),” interview by Richard Valeriani, NBC News, Meet the 
Press (March 27, 1976), pp. 3-5, Ronald H. Nessen, Meet the Press - March 27, 1976, Box 71, Gerald R. 
Ford Library. 



393 


rather deceptive tactic would, at least outwardly, strengthen the administration’s rationale 
for intervention, especially since Mobutu, following the alleged coup and Hinton’s 
expulsion in June 1975, was not on Congress’s most well-liked list. I also believe that 
American assistance to Savimibi’s UNITA was, in fact, always a sideshow to the main 
event - American support for both Mobutu and the FNLA. The available evidence 
supports my position. 

First, Kissinger’s own words lend credence to my contention. In a mid- June 1975 
meeting with President Ford, for example, in which Angola was a major point of 
discussion, he told the president the MPLA was gaining ground in Angola and might take 
Luanda. Then, “We have been diddling around. We have given Roberto a bit, but he 
needs weapons and discipline. Kaunda doesn’t have the horsepower. Mobutu is a bloody 
bastard but he is the only hope.” 540 Secondly, Kissinger saw Zaire as the only feasible 
logistical base for any American support to the pro-Westem factions, telling his staff that 
while he preferred other dinner companions to Mobutu, “he was the ‘only game in 
town.’” 541 Thirdly, the American decision to actively and substantially intervene 
occurred only after President Sese Seko Mobutu had alleged an American, or at least 
CIA, involvement in the June 1975 coup against him and had expelled the American 

540 “Memorandum of Conversation (between President Ford and Henry Kissinger),” June 16, 1975, p. 2, 
National Security Adviser - Memoranda of Conversations, 1973-1977, June 16, 1975 - Ford, Kissinger, 
Box 12, Gerald R. Ford Library. 

541 Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 803. 



394 


ambassador. This issue seriously troubled Kissinger. Despite his obvious contempt for 
the Zairian president, Kissinger saw him as the linch pin of American policy in southern 
Africa and believed that American interests in the region, especially that of denying 
Soviet influence, were best protected by a partnership with Mobutu’s strongly anti- 
Communist regime. 

Finally, on July 22, during his second trip to Kinshasa, which will be discussed in 
greater depth later on, Vance sent a message to Kissinger which stated, in part, “Since my 
discussions here involve assistance to Savimbi as well as Roberto, would appreciate 
being kept as closely informed as possible of status of our efforts via Kaunda.” " The 
next day, July 23, in response to Vance’s request, Kissinger sent his trusted emissary a 
personal telegram that reveals President Kaunda had not yet agreed to any joint 
American-Zambian action in Angola. This message came five days after President 
Ford’s decision to provide financial and military support to both the FNLA and UNITA. 

Kissinger informed Vance in his 23 July message that “officials” from the Lusaka 
embassy had approached Kaunda on the issue, apparently on July 20. However, his only 
response had been to ask for more information on the quantity of Soviet arms supplied to 


542 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram, Subject: Vance Mission: Angola,” 221616Z July 1975, p. 1, 
National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegrams to 
SecState - NODIS, Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary. 



395 


the MPLA. The Zambian president also told the Americans “he would have to consult 
further with his colleagues before replying to us.” 543 

Subsequently, the American Embassy in Lusaka sent a message to Washington 
indicating that President Kaunda, via his close personal adviser, Mark Chona, had said 
that hard evidence on the level of Soviet involvement in Angola was an “essential pre- 
requisite to his response.” 544 Ambassador Wilkowski (who had been present in the April 
meeting in Washington, D.C. between Presidents Ford and Kaunda) reported that Mr. 
Chona was hesitant to discuss the American proposal of assistance to Savimbi, dodging 
most of her questions. However, she said that he was anxious to get the full story of the 
American plan to Kaunda, with whom he was scheduled to meet the next day, July 24, in 
northern Zambia where Kaunda had traveled on July 20. 545 

These exchanges between Washington, Lusaka, and Kinshasa explain a good deal 
about the Zambian role in the American plan for Angola, which was clearly secondary to 


“Secretary of State Telegram, State 173142, Subject: Vance Mission,” 230136Z July 1975, p. 1, 
National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegrams 
from SecState - NODIS, Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. 

544 “American Embassy Lusaka Telegram, Lusaka 1372, Subject: Meeting with Chona on Approach to 
Kaunda,” 231532Z July 1975, p. 1, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, 
Zambia - State Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (1), Box 8, Gerald R. Ford Library. This 
message, which was sent “operational immediate,” indicating its significance, was apparently a follow-up 
telegram to an earlier Lusaka missive that remains classified. The earlier message, referenced as Lusaka 
1361 in the 231532Z message, probably reported the initial American approach to Kaunda, on July 20, and 
his less than enthusiastic response, and prompted Kissinger’s personal message to Vance on July 23, in 
which he told Vance that the Zambian president wanted more time to consider the American proposal for 
joint action in Angola. 

545 Ibid., p. 2. 



396 


that of Zaire and was nothing more than an add-on to the main attraction. They indicate, 
first, that President Ford unilaterally decided to provide American military assistance to 
Savimbi before President Kaunda had been consulted. Moreover, this decision ran 
contrary to what Kaunda had advised the American president to do - wait and see - in 
their April meeting. Secondly, three months after that meeting, Kaunda was still hesitant 
to become more militarily involved in the escalating conflict next door to Zambia. He 
delayed a quick decision on the American proposal by asking for more details on the 
amount of Soviet weaponry provided to the MPLA. Thirdly, Washington, via the Lusaka 
embassy, had to put on something akin to a full-court press to convince Zambia that it 
was in its best interests and those of its “compromise candidate,” Jonas Savimbi, to join 
the African “coalition of the willing,” then anchored only by Zambia’s northern neighbor, 
Zaire . 546 


546 Ambassador Wilkowski asked for, and was granted, a follow-on meeting that same afternoon, July 23, 
between Chona and probably the CIA Station Chief in Lusaka, whose name and position were deleted from 
her message to Washington. In that meeting, I surmise that the CIA man provided Chona with the details 
of the Agency’s estimated amount of Soviet aid to the MPLA, as Kaunda had requested. Also, since the 
American ambassador had told Chona that she was “completely out of the technicalities and mechanics of 
the assistance offer,” the CIA representative presumably briefed him on these issues also. It is difficult to 
assess if the arm-twisting by the Americans worked. The plan to supply Savimbi’s UNITA with American 
weapons did go forward, but he was supplied, like Holden Roberto, via Kinshasa and not Lusaka. 

Perhaps, and I speculate here, this was in deference to Kaunda’ s desire not to be seen as contributing to the 
external escalation of an African conflict. . .or, maybe he never agreed to participate in the plan. Whatever 
the case, American (and Zairian) support to Savimbi was much lower than that to Roberto, perhaps because 
of the logistical difficulties involved in getting arms to him in central Angola from Zaire, but more 
probably because Roberto was Mobutu’s client, and Mobutu, not Kaunda, was America’s client. Also, in a 
pro-Western coalition “division of labor,” as we shall see. South Africa provided most of the support to 
Savimbi and Chipenda’s FNLA in central and southern Angola. 



397 


In sum, Kissinger and others, probably in an attempt to bolster the administration’s 
justification for the American intervention, distorted the story of Zambia’s importance to 
the American decision to covertly intervene in Angola, while at the same time 
understating the much more crucial role played by Zaire’s Mobutu in that decision. That 
significance is revealed in the events leading up to the alleged coup against Mobutu in 
June of 1975, in which he implicated the United States, and the three-trip mission 
undertaken by Sheldon Vance to repair the potential rupture in the Washington-Kinshasa 
relationship. 

Pericentrism: The Zaire Connection 

We should view the events in Zaire surrounding the alleged coup as the culmination of 
an escalating series of minor crises in the relationship, beginning in the early 1970s, 
which sporadically interrupted the otherwise close connections between Kinshasa and 
Washington. These crises mainly concerned Mobutu’s efforts to cast himself as a leading 
African statesman and as a major voice in the Third World. This required, in part, a 
distancing from the widely held perspective that he was an instrument of the American 
government, or at least its Central Intelligence Agency. In the course of asserting his 
independent credentials, the Zairian president undertook a regional and global diplomatic 
offensive. The latter most notably included visits to China in 1973 and 1974. 



398 


On his first trip to Beijing, in January 1973, Mobutu left with a Chinese pledge of 
$100 million in economic aid for Zaire and weapons and training for the FNLA. 547 China 
was slow to deliver on its $100 million economic aid promise. However, as previously 
noted, in the late spring and summer of 1974, at least 112 Chinese military trainers and an 
estimated 450 tons of weapons arrived in Zaire for support of the FNLA. Moreover, 
according to historian Crawford Young, following this trip, the Chinese ambassador in 
Kinshasa gained continuing privileged access to the Zairian leader, which “helped to 

54R 

project an image of Mobutu as closer to the Third World mainstream.” 

The next bump in the Washington-Kinshasa axis came in October 1973, just a few 
days before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. While addressing the UN General 
Assembly on October 4, Mobutu announced that Zaire was breaking its diplomatic 
relations with Israel to show its support for its “brother country, Egypt.” According to 
Crawford Young, Kissinger was “furious,” but the United States did little in response to 
the Mobutu declaration. 549 Historian Eduoard Bustin, assessing the impact of Mobutu’s 
move, noted that as nearly every other African nation followed his lead, “Zaire found 
itself, for the first time in its history, in the heady position of a trend setter. . .The break 


547 Crawford Young, “The Portuguese Coup and Zaire’s Southern African Policy,’’ in Southern Africa since 
the Portuguese Coup, ed. John Seiler (Boulder: Westview Press, Inc., 1980), 199. 

548 Ibid. 

549 Ibid., 202. 



399 


with Israel was consonant with Mobutu’s long-standing efforts to enhance his regime’s 
visibility and to establish Zaire’s credibility as an autonomous actor.” 550 

After Mobutu’s second trip to Beijing, in December 1974, he moved on to Pyongyang. 
As a result of this visit, the North Koreans promised, and delivered, some weaponry and 
extensive training for a new, special Zairian strike force, which Crawford has described 
as a self-contained, elite armored force, “outside the army’s regular command structure.” 
The Chinese joined in training the force, further cementing the growing Kinshasa-Beijing 
relationship. 551 The growing ties between Zaire and both China and North Korea 
elevated Mobutu’s status within the Third World and, as importantly, in southern Africa 
where the Chinese had resumed a more vigorous diplomatic effort after the Cultural 
Revolution had run its course. 

Moreover, the North Korean trip had a significant effect on Zaire’s domestic policies, 
which could not have been to Washington’s liking. Crawford Young argues that Mobutu 
was greatly impressed by the North Korean developmental model, which emphasized 
industrial growth through highly personalized leadership, a dominant single party, and 
regime-controlled economic expansion. Upon his return from Pyongyang, Mobutu began 
his personalized program of “Zairianization,” in part patterned after his superficial 

550 Edouard Bustin, “The Foreign Policy of the Republic of Zaire,” 7 1 . 

551 Young, “The Portuguese Coup and Zaire’s Southern Africa Policy,” 207. Young describes the United 
States as being irritated “over the closeness of Zairian-Chinese relations.” Ibid., 208. 



400 


understanding of the North Korean model, which he declared was designed to radicalize 

cco 

the nation’s revolution. 

While the tilt toward economic nationalism introduced another thorny issue into the 
Washington-Kinshasa relationship, a series of events in the diplomatic arena significantly 
added to the increasing strains in the American-Zairian relationship. At the end of 1973, 
Sheldon Vance, who throughout his four- year assignment in Kinshasa had built a strong 
rapport with Mobutu, returned to the United States. Washington, probably as a sign of its 
displeasure with Mobutu’s previous actions, left the ambassadorial post vacant until the 
arrival of the unwelcome Dean Hinton in August 1974. 

Subsequently, Kissinger fired his popular and widely respected assistant for African 
Affairs, Donald Easum, upon his return from a highly praised African trip in late 1974. 


552 Ibid., 207. In carrying out his promise to radicalize the revolution in Zaire, Mobutu “announced ‘a war 
on the bourgeoisie’ and “proclaimed a state takeover of private ventures along with what remained of the 
colonial business sector.” Crawford Young, “Zaire: The Anatomy of a Failed State,” in History of Central 
Africa: The Contemporary Years since 1960 , ed. David Birmingham and Phyllis M. Martin (New York: 
Addison Wesley Longman: 1998), 1 15. In addition to major changes in the economic sector, Mobutu’s 
Zairianization doctrine also affected the way the society was to be run, including the further empowerment 
of Mobutu’s dominant political movement, the MPR (Popular Revolutionary Movement), which he had 
established in 1967. For example, as explained by Young, the government took over all mission schools, 
recalled all Zairian students in foreign schools, conscripted graduates of secondary school for public 
service, and determined admission to university based on a favorable MPR recommendation on the 
student’s political militancy. Young, “The Portuguese Coup and Zaire’s Southern African Policy,” 207- 
208. Mobutism replaced the previous doctrine of “Authenticity,” which had mandated that Zaire return to 
its cultural roots and reject Western influence. As a result, Zairians were instructed to rid themselves of 
Western clothing. Mao-style collarless jackets became the acceptable wear for men and full-length 
Africanized dresses for women. The regime also Africanized place names and instructed its citizens to 
drop their Westernized names in favor of authentic Zairian names. Young, “Zaire: The Anatomy of a 
Failed State,” 113-1 14. Although Mobutism officially replaced Authenticity as the formal doctrine, the 
Africanization program of the latter remained in place. 



401 


He replaced Easum with Nathaniel Davis, for whom Hinton had worked while Davis was 
the American ambassador to Chile during the Allende years. 

In January 1975, Mobutu chose the forum of the African-American Institute annual 
(AAI) conference, then being held in Kinshasa, to criticize Davis’ appointment. He then 
linked the former ambassador in Santiago to the American actions against Chile’s 
Salvador Allende and to what he described as broader American efforts at undermining 
Third World regimes whose ideological disposition displeased the United States. At the 
same time, he implicated Ambassador Hinton, then only a few months into his Kinshasa 
assignment, in these “schemes” as a result of his previous association with Davis in 
Chile. 553 

Hinton’s relationship with Mobutu was, from the start, tense, and very unlike the 
friendship enjoyed by Sheldon Vance and the Zairian president. Adding to the 
unpleasantness of Hinton’s situation, when he left Washington, his marching orders were 
to convince Mobutu to get his economic house in order or face the possibility of a 


553 Young, “The Portuguese Coup and Zaire’s Southern African Policy,” 208, and Bustin, “The Foreign 
Policy of the Republic of Zaire,” 71-72. According to journalist Bruce Oudes, Mobutu’s January 21 speech 
was the first time a moderate African state openly criticized the United States’ African policy, which, if 
true, clearly added to its significance. Part of Mobutu’s criticism also focused on the recent dismissal of 
Donald Easum as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, an American emissary who was 
widely respected throughout Africa. Mobutu “praised Assistant Secretary Easum as a good listener who is 
‘very experienced in African Affairs,’ and said he was ‘surprised to learn not only that he was fired but that 
his replacement is the former ambassador to Chile at the time President Allende died.’ U.S. policy in 
Africa, Mobutu said, ‘is a passive one. It is a policy of status quo and fait accompli.’” Bruce Oudes, “The 
United States’ Year in Africa,” African Contemporary Record, Annual Survey and Documents, 1 974-1 975 
(New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1975), A-99. 



402 


decline, or loss, of American support. As Elize Pachter noted, “Hinton’s job was to point 
out to Mobutu that the United States could not bail him out of his present difficulties.” 554 

Mobutu, however, refused to see the new Ambassador until January 1975. When the 
two finally met, the president did not receive either the messenger or the delivered 
message well. According to Pachter, Mobutu was not yet ready or willing to hear the bad 
news that Hinton tried to provide because in early 1975, the price of copper had not 
significantly decreased, and the Benguela railroad was still open. Despite warnings from 
the World Bank on the instability of Zaire’s economic position, the international financial 
community, particularly Zaire’s Western partners, ignored the nascent crisis. 555 Zaire’s 
credit was still good in early 1975, but this situation changed radically over the next few 
months. 

Then came the alleged coup in June 1975 and Hinton’s subsequent expulsion. 
Although from time to time Mobutu demonstrated his independence from the United 
States by taking actions that he no doubt calculated would offend Washington, he also 
realized that his regime played a major role in American policy in southern Africa. The 
United States needed him, even if it didn’t especially like him. More importantly, he 
needed the United States’ continued support, especially with Zaire’s deteriorating 


Pachter, “Our Man in Kinshasa, 220. 

555 TU ; 



403 


economic situation and the emerging crisis in Angola, where the MPLA was steadily 
gaining the upper hand over Mobutu’s “chosen one,” Holden Roberto, and his FNLA. 

Given the latter situation and the somewhat symbiotic relationship between 
Washington and Kinshasa, Mobutu took a calculated risk. He essentially decided to 
shoot the messenger. With Ambassador Hinton’s expulsion, Mobutu signaled that not 
only did he want a new and more amenable American representative in Kinshasa, but 
also that he wanted Washington to start paying more attention to him and his country’s 
declining economic situation as well as his warnings about what he alleged was extensive 
and increasing Soviet involvement in Angola. 

In this is he was remarkably successful. As Elise Pachter has observed, the American 
reaction to the alleged American involvement in the coup and Hinton’s expulsion 
reassured President Mobutu that he was still indispensable to Washington’s Africa 
policy .” 556 The United States imposed neither diplomatic nor other penalties in 
response, instead sending Mobutu’s former confidante, Sheldon Vance, to placate his old 
friend. Vance’s mission spanned four months and entailed three separate trips in June, 
July, and September. While not all the documents surrounding these visits are 
declassified, enough have been made publicly available to connect the dots and assess the 
significance of Mobutu in the American decision to intervene in Angola. 

556 


Ibid., 204. 



404 


The Vance Mission - First Trip 

During Vance’s first trip in June, which began just days after Hinton’s expulsion, 
Mobutu not only appealed for American economic support, but also began to outline the 
format for American assistance to the FNLA and UNITA. This happened even though 
Vance made no promise of American support for either movement. Mobutu, however, 
was not deterred by Vance’s non-committal, and went into great detail on the situation in 
Angola. He first told Vance that he had agreed with the Portuguese to lessen his own 
support to Roberto while Portugal “would not go out of its way to help Agostinho Neto.” 
He inferred that the Portuguese had not been successful in this endeavor as arms and 
money from the Soviet Union and others continued to pour into Angola for the MPLA. 

In contrast, although Roberto had 15,000 men in Zaire to augment those already in 
Angola, they lacked adequate weapons because his own stock, with which he supplied 
the FNLA, was low, his money scarce, and Chinese support dwindling. 

Having lured his guest with the Soviet bait, Mobutu then set the hook. He told Vance 
that he realized that under the present circumstances, probably referring to the American 
domestic political situation including the investigations of the CIA, the United States 
could not help directly. However, “It is known that the US had helped Zaire militarily 
and that Zaire has helped Roberto, so the modalities of our possible assistance are clearly 
indicated.” Mobutu then emphasized that it was not too late for the United States to act, 



405 


but that time was quickly running out. Sounding much like a Kissinger imitator, he told 
Vance it would be very “grave” for Zaire if the Soviets controlled Angola, “as they would 
if Neto became the master of the country.” Mobutu concluded the session on Angola by 
advocating strongly for Savimbi, noting that he had been able to give him only $30,000 
in cash, but that he “should also should be given arms and more money and this too can 
be via Zaire.” He then turned to a discussion of Zaire’s financial difficulties. 

Vance’s subsequent meetings with Mobutu during his first trip, of which there were at 
least two, as well as his single meeting with Holden Roberto, were essentially reiterations 
of that all-important first meeting. Mobutu reaffirmed his desire to continue a close 
association with the United States, while continuing to bombard the American emissary 
with the seriousness of Zaire’s economic situation and the Soviet threat next door. Phase 
one of the Mobutu plan for Angola had thus been set in place. Its details were yet to be 
worked out and its execution still contingent upon an American decision to intervene, but 
Mobutu’s apparently convincing arguments had two significant effects on the Zaire- 
American relationship and on the course of the conflict in Angola. 


557 Vance’s first meeting with Mobutu, as summarized above, was reported in “American Embassy 
Kinshasa Telegram 5605, Subject: Breakfast with Mobutu,” 231550Z June 1975, pp. 1-3, National 
Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegrams to SecState - 
NODIS (1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. Subsequent messages from Vance indicate he met again with 
Mobutu on the evening of June 23, then again the next morning, June 24, for a total of at least three 
discussions. During the evening of June 24, he also met with Holden Roberto. Vance and Mobutu 
apparently conducted more than three sessions, but the records of those discussions are still unavailable to 
the public. 



406 


First, Mobutu’s request for American economic assistance was heard loud and clear in 
Washington. In late July, just before Vance departed for Kinshasa on his second visit, 
Kissinger recommended that President Ford approve a comprehensive economic package 
for Zaire, which he had asked his department to prepare following the Vance-Cutler June 
27 debriefing of their trip. On July 19, the president signed off on the nearly $50 million 
assistance program as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 76 Foreign Aid budget. The 
economic package broke down as follows: $20 million in new Export-Import Bank 
credits, $15 million in CCC credit and PL 480 (food) assistance; reprogramming $6 
million of an AID developmental loan (for port improvement) into the general category 
“supporting assistance grant,” and adding an additional $14 million to the category, 
bringing the total to $20 million. 558 

James T. Lynn, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget director, told 
the president that the $20 million supporting assistance grant was intended to provide 
“immediate balance of payments relief’ for Zaire’s short-term commercial debt, then in 
arrears. However, he cautioned that it would be difficult for the administration to defend 
any sort of increased aid to Zaire on the Hill. “Congress is likely to resist budget 


558 “]yj emoranc | um f or the President from James T. Lynn, Subject: Foreign Aid Budget Amendment for 
Zaire (Congo),” July 17, 1975, p. 1 [Database on-line]; available from Declassified Documents Reference 
System. On the same subject, see also “Memorandum for the President from Henry Kissinger, Subject: 

Mr. Lynn’s Memo to the President Concerning a Foreign Aid Budget Amendment for Zaire - Add-on,” 
July 17, 1975, p. 1, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, 1974-1977, Zaire (1), 
Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



407 


amendments for Zaire in view of Mobutu’s accusations, the lack of publicly defensible 
rationale for increased aid, and Presidential vetoes for domestic spending.” He remarked 
that the only justification would be overriding foreign policy concerns, which he properly 
deferred to Henry Kissinger. 559 It was several months before the appropriate 
congressional committees began to consider the economic aid package. However, the 
presidential approval gave Sheldon Vance something with which to appease Mobutu 
during his second trip to Kinshasa. 

Secondly, following Vance’s return from his first trip in late June, Kissinger, who had 
become increasingly agitated with the downturn in the FNLA’s military fortunes, became 
the strongest advocate for an active American role in Angola. Sheldon Vance’s report of 
his recent discussions with Mobutu clearly influenced Kissinger’s proclivity for some 
sort of firm demonstration of American resolve in Angola, at least in part as a sign of 
American support for Mobutu. 

It also slanted his presentation to the National Security Council in favor of option 3 - 

active American involvement in Angola. Before briefing the gist of all three proposed 

options for American action to the NSC’s meeting on June 27, convened solely to discuss 

the Angolan situation, Kissinger first quickly summarized the results of Vance’s trip. He 

pointed out that Mobutu had emphasized the negative impact on Zaire if Moscow’s 

559 “Memorandum for the President from James T. Lynn, Subject: Foreign Aid Budget Amendment for 
Zaire (Congo), July 17, 1975, pp. 1-2 



408 


military aid to the MPLA proved decisive in determining Angola’s future, noting, “Soviet 
arms have reversed the situation. Sheldon Vance has just come back from talking with 
Mobutu, who has stressed the change in the balance of power. Portugal is tilting toward 
Neto, and the Soviets are putting important equipment, such as armed personnel carriers, 
into Neto’s hands.” 560 

Given this situation, Kissinger’s assessment was that neither the neutrality option 
(option 1) nor a diplomatic offensive (option 2) involving the Soviet Union, Portugal, the 
OAU and Angola’s neighbors would, in the end, best serve American interests. The 
probable outcome of doing nothing and remaining neutral would be Zaire’s move toward 
a left and anti- American posture, while the Soviets would view a diplomatic endeavor - 
words without resolute action - as a sign of American weakness. 561 President Ford 
quickly agreed with Kissinger’s assessment of the Angolan situation, noting, “It seems to 
me that doing nothing is unacceptable. As for diplomatic efforts, it is naive to think 
that’s going to happen; and the proposal on Portugal sounds amateurish.” 562 

While the National Security Council made no collective decision at this point, 
President Ford indicated his propensity, like that of Kissinger, to become actively 
engaged in the Angolan conflict. Before adjourning the meeting, he asked CIA Director 

560 “National Security Council Meeting, Subject: Angola,” June 27, 1975, p. 3, National Security Adviser, 
National Security Council Meetings File, Box 2, Gerald R. Ford Library. 

561 Ibid., pp. 3-4. 

562 Ibid., p. 7. 



409 


Colby to develop arms package options. The direct presidential request imparted an 
increased sense of urgency to the Angolan problem and set the Washington machinery in 
motion, leading directly to President Ford’s July 18 th decision on American intervention. 
An important factor in that decision, however, resided thousands of miles away in the 
Zairian capital. There, America’s long-time client in southern Africa, President Sese 
Seko Mobutu, understanding that his coup allegations and expulsion of Hinton had 
captured Washington’s attention, awaited the return of Sheldon Vance. 

The Vance Mission - Second Trip 

Vance departed the United States on or about July 18, the same day President Ford 

authorized the execution of option 3 by the CIA - active, covert support for both the 

FNLA and UNITA (codename IAFEATURE). The president told Kissinger, “I have 

decided on Angola. I think we should go.” Kissinger, knowing that Vance was already 

scheduled to depart for a second visit to Kinshasa, replied, ‘‘We’ll send Vance to Mobutu 

[words deleted] and ask him to come up with a program.” 561 Both the presidential 

authorization of IAFEATURE and the economic package, which Ford approved as Vance 

was enroute to Kinshasa, were clearly intended to signal Washington’s sincere intentions 

563 “M emoran( j um 0 f Conversation, Subject: Middle East; Angola; Soviet Grain; SALT; President’s Trip,” 
July 18, 1975, National Security Adviser Memoranda of Conversation, 1973-1977, July 18, 1975 - Ford, 
Kissinger, Box 13, Gerald R. Ford Library. Kissinger had previously written the president, in justification 
of the proposed $50 million in economic aid, that he had asked Sheldon Vance to return to Zaire to 
continue his earlier discussion with Mobutu on what the United States could do to improve the bilateral 
relationship. “Memorandum for the President, Subject: Mr. Lynn’s Memo to the President Concerning a 
Foreign Aid Budget Amendment - Add-on,” July 17, 1975, p. 1. 



410 

to repair the rift with Kinshasa. 564 IAFEATURE, however, expanded Vance’s charter 
from smoothing the ruffled feathers of President Mobutu with a promise of economic 
assistance to also developing a joint Zairian- American plan of action for Angola. 565 

By the time Sheldon Vance arrived in Kinshasa on or about 19 July, Mobutu had 
already developed a program for stepping up Zaire’s military involvement in Angola. 566 


564 James Lynn alluded to the conciliatory purpose of the intended aid package for Zaire. Referring to 
Mobutu’s false allegations of American involvement in the recent coup, Lynn told President Ford, “State 
argues that failure to give him assistance at this time could ‘have severely negative, immediate 
consequences on our political and economic interests in Zaire,’ possibly going as far as a formal break in 
diplomatic relations and nationalization of U.S. firms.” “Memorandum for the President from James T. 
Lynn, Subject: Foreign Aid Budget Amendment for Zaire (Congo),” July 17, 1975, p. 1. Kissinger, who 
forwarded Lynn’s memorandum to the president on the same day it was given to him, added his own 
thoughts on the purpose of the proposed economic aid to Zaire. Referring to Mobutu, he wrote, 

“We. . .believe we need to inform him of our desire to be of assistance with a $50 million package as a 
demonstration of our good faith.” “Memorandum for the President, Subject: Mr. Lynn’s Memo to the 
President Concerning a Foreign Aid Budget Amendment for Zaire - Add-on,” July 17, 1975, p. 1. 

565 In his 1999 memoirs. Years of Renewal, Kissinger continued to defend the decision to intervene in 
Angola as necessary to prevent its domination by Communists, but he conveniently shifted the blame for 
the failure to do so mainly to the Congress, which cut off funding for the endeavor. However, while never 
doubting the correctness of the decision, he opined that the administration made a major mistake in 
executing the policy because no one in the White House - “someone with real conviction about what we 
were doing” - was charged with overseeing the operation. The president, Scowcroft and he “were spread 
too thinly,” and were too busy to give the program the daily attention it needed for success. Having 
confessed to this transgression, he then blames CIA director William Colby, who “emerged by default as 
the de facto commander of the Angolan operation.” However, Kissinger tells us that Colby spent most of 
his time defending the CIA before a hostile Congress, and “Given his growing aversion to covert 
operations, he had little predisposition to give impetus to the Angolan operation.” As a result, Kissinger 
asserts that Colby executed the American involvement too slowly, preventing a quick change in the balance 
on the ground and surrendering the escalatory edge to the Soviet Union. Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 811- 
813. Kissinger had a track record for blame shifting, but it seemed to reach new heights in his account of 
why the MPLA was able to defeat both the FNLA and UNITA. By laying the blame for poor execution at 
Colby’s feet, he manages to avoid mentioning Mobutu’s singularly important role, from start to finish, in 
the covert program. While no major player in the White House may have had the time to closely monitor 
and direct the Angolan program, Kissinger had his “commander” in the form of Mobutu, with Sheldon 
Vance acting as the close liaison between Kinshasa and Washington - another case of back channel 
communications designed to circumvent the Washington foreign policy bureaucracy. 



411 


Referred to by Kissinger as “the Mobutu Plan,” that program, as it played out during his 
discussions with Vance, evolved into a two-track effort, with the United States deeply 
involved in both, but with Mobutu shaping the form and substance of the American 
contribution . 567 

Mobutu spelled out the first track to Vance during their earliest meetings. It entailed, 
first, the immediate release of in-stock Zairian Army military equipment to both the 
FNLA and UNITA, but with the former receiving the lion’s share of the weaponry. By 


566 On July 17, one day before President Ford authorized IAFEATURE, Kissinger briefed him on Nathaniel 
Davis’ written objections to the program and AF’s support for either the neutrality or diplomatic option. 
Kissinger labeled the State Department objections to a covert, paramilitary program as a “disgrace,” 
remarking that force, in his words, “physical domination,” was the normal modus operandi throughout 
Africa. The president, who had not seen the objections paper, asked if it contained a recommendation for 
arms support. Kissinger’s response to the Ford inquiry, some of which is deleted, was that the United 
States “should send Vance [deleted]. Then we should have Mobutu and Kaunda get together and work it 
out. Without us, Neto will win." This pronouncement seemed to capture the president’s attention. He 
asked if the odds for an FNLA-UNITA victory would improve if the United States became actively 
involved. Kissinger responded, “We will know better when we see the Mobutu Plan.” “Memorandum of 
Conversation, Subject: Frank Lindsay; Angola; Zaire; Middle East,” July 17, 1975, p. 2, National Security 
Adviser - Memoranda of Conversations, 1973-1977, July 17, 1975 - Ford-Kissinger, Gerald R. Ford 
Library. This conversation reveals that the groundwork for the Mobutu Plan had already been laid prior to 
Vance’s second visit, and that only the details of its execution and an American promise to support it 
remained. Vance and Mobutu, along with the latter’s top generals (at least those who had not be implicated 
in the alleged coup), worked out the details during Vance’s second trip, and the United States fulfilled its 
commitment through the funding of both IAFEATURE and the replacement program for Zairian equipment 
transferred to the FNLA and UNITA. 

567 Much of Vance’s reporting on his earliest meetings with Mobutu is still classified. Prior to July 22, he 
apparently had three discussions on Angola with Mobutu, starting on July 20, because on the 22 nd he sent 
this message to Washington. “Now that I have had three sessions with Mobutu on Angola, I believe it is 
useful to reflect on where we’ve come so far and where we might be headed.” “American Embassy 
Kinshasa Telegram 6798, Subject; Mobutu-Vance Meetings; Angola,” 221635Z July 1975, p. 1, National 
Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegrams to SecState - 
NODIS (1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. Nearly one and one-half pages of the text of this message were 
deleted. However, subsequent messages on Vance’s second trip are more complete, making it possible to 
reconstruct the outline, if not all the minute details, of the Zairian- American program. 




412 


22 July, Mobutu had already released enough equipment from his Mobilization Reserve 
stocks to outfit five infantry battalions - approximately 5,000 men - as well as nine 
armored cars and some heavy mortars and anti-tank weapons. He had also told Vance 
that he was preparing to immediately ship the existing equipment of five of his paratroop 
battalions into Angola, with the material from four of the para-battalions destined for 
Holden Roberto and the other one for Savimbi. 568 

The second part of “Track One” involved a quick American replacement of at least 
some of the Mobilization Reserve equipment sent to Angola through an emergency 
increase in Fiscal Year 75 Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to Zaire. Replacement of the 
rest of that equipment, plus the equipment from Mobutu’s five paratroop battalions, was 
to be achieved through an increase in the FY76 Military Assistance Program (MAP) 
funding request for Zaire. Vance alluded to this arrangement when he met with Mobutu 
for the fourth time on the evening of July 23. Mobutu “reiterated his hope that the items 
already sent Angola from his Mobilization Reserve, as well as the key items from 


568 Ibid. Some of the details of the Zairian equipment provided to the pro-Western factions can be 
ascertained from the following: “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 6755, Subject: Vance-Mobutu: 
Third Meeting; Evening July 21,” 220141Z July 1975, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country 
Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford 
Library; “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 6798, Subject: Mobutu- Vance Meetings: Angola,” 
221635Z July 1975, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State 
Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library; “American Embassy 
Kinshasa Telegram 6877, Subject: Vance Mission: Fourth Meeting with Mobutu on July 23,” 241335Z 
July 1975, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, vol. E- 6 , Documents on Africa, 1973-1977 [database on-line]; 
available from http://www.state.g 0 v/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/e 6 . 



413 


paratroops which we cannot supply in the present emergency program, would be replaced 
subsequently.” 569 

Washington’s response to the quick weapons replacement request was, itself, 
remarkably rapid, demonstrating again Washington’s desire to ingratiate itself with 
President Mobutu. Three weeks after returning from his second visit, Sheldon Vance 
sent a message to the American Charge d’ Affaires in Kinshasa, Lannon Walker, 
instructing him to assist the Zairian government with the preparation of Form 1513, 

Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA), “using FMS from last fiscal year.” 570 In the 
telegram, Vance detailed the equipment that should be included in the LOA, which must 
have been agreed upon during his trip to Kinshasa in July. The Vance-provided generic 
listing of weapons indicates that it was, indeed, the replacement for at least some of the 
arms transferred out of Mobutu’s Mobilization Reserve stock. Vance also told Charge 
Walker that, in addition to the listed weapons, the Letter of Offer and Acceptance should 


569 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 6877, Subject: Vance Mission: Fourth Meeting with Mobutu 
on July 23,” p. 1. 

570 “Secretary of State Telegram 194823, 160044Z August 1975, Subject: FMS for Zaire,” p. 1, National 
Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegrams from 
SecState - NODIS, Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Fibrary. The reference to “last fiscal year” refers to FY75, 
which ran from July 1, 1974 to June 30, 1975. Fiscal Year 76 began on July 1, 1975 and ended on June 30, 
1976. Since then, the fiscal year time frame has changed to run from October 1 to September 30. This 
message underscores the influence that Sheldon Vance wielded in the Zaire- American relationship and the 
confidence Kissinger placed in him and not in the State Department’s African Bureau, i.e., the message was 
transmitted “For Charge from Vance.” 



414 


also request a small training team of American military personnel, “which can prepare 

57 1 

FAZ to utilize effectively weapons of this variety.” 

Moreover, Vance made good on the promise to replace the other equipment transferred 
to Roberto and Savimbi. Soon after his return to Washington, Vance discussed an 
increase in the FY 76 MAP funding for Zaire with officials from the Defense 
Department. According to Colonel Clinton E. Granger, the National Security 
Council’s Planning Staff director, Vance presented the department “with a shopping list 
for military equipment.” Vance then contacted Colonel Granger to press for a budget 


571 Ibid. FAZ refers to the Armed Forces of Zaire. The equipment list included: 1,000 M-16s; 100 light 
anti-tank weapons (LAW); 5 60mm, 5 81mm, and 17 4.2mm mortars; 20 each of 30 caliber, 50 caliber, and 
7.62 (M-60) machine guns. Vance also indicated that there was still FMS money available from the last 
fiscal year and that Washington would be advising Zaire on the utilization of the remaining FY75 credits as 
well as FY76 credits. Ibid., pp. 1-2. This listing, as Vance suggested, was only the first installment of a 
much larger replacement program. John Stockwell provides a complete inventory of arms and material 
delivered to Zaire in Appendix 6 of his Angolan study. Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 267-268. 

512 In early 1975, a U.S. Military Technical Assistance Team (MTAT) led by Brigadier General Rockwell 
of the Joint Staff visited Zaire to assess its military requirements. The Rockwell Report, submitted in early 
March 1975, recommended that the United States increase its military assistance “substantially” above the 
$3.5 million in FY 75 Foreign Military Sales credits and .3 million grant aid. The general’s rationale was 
that the recommended increase was necessary to maintain a close, ‘special’ relationship with Zaire, which 
was in the U.S. national interest, as State and DOD had briefed his team before its left for Kinshasa. 
Moreover, Rockwell concluded, “I return from Zaire with the distinct impression that should the U.S. 
simply send them a piece of paper - a report - with no indication that we are willing to increase our 
assistance to them in modernizing their military forces, then political relations between the two countries 
will deteriorate, thus jeopardizing U.S. military and economic access to Zaire.” Based on the Rockwell 
Report, the FY 76 MAP request for Zaire totaled $9.5 million - a $6 million increase over FY 75. 
“Memorandum for OJCS (J5), OSD (ISA), and Office, Secretary of State (African Affairs), Subject: Zaire 
Military Technical Assistance Team (MTAT) Report,” 7 March 1975, pp. 1-2, Foreign Relations, 1969- 
1976, vol. E- 6 , Documents on Africa, 1973-1976 [database on-line]; available from 

http://www.state.g 0 v/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/e 6 . For an interesting account of the Rockwell team’s exit briefing 
for Mobutu, which reveals the Zairian president’s superb manipulative skills, see “American Embassy 
Kinshasa Telegram 1494, Subject: President Mobutu and Zaire’s Defense Problems,” 200958Z February 
1975, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, vol. E- 6 , Documents on Africa, 1973-1976. 



415 

amendment increase of $9.5 million over the then requested $9.5 million, bringing the 
total to $19 million. Granger told Kissinger, “The Ambassador feels strongly that there is 
an urgent requirement for at least $19 million in total map grant for Zaire in support of 

573 

on-going programs that you are aware of.” 

“Track Two,” worked out between Vance, Mobutu, and his top generals, but with 
Mobutu clearly having the final say, involved direct American military and financial 
support for both pro-Western factions, using Kinshasa as the main transshipment point 
for weapons transfer. This was the IAFEATURE portion of the program, and Vance 
apparently informed Mobutu of the covert program’s funding on July 23, if not before, 
which at that time consisted of only the initial $6 million. 

Prior to meeting Mobutu on July 23, he had received a message from Kissinger that 
directed him to put together, with Mobutu, “a package based on the highest priority items 


573 “Memorandum for Secretary Kissinger, Subject: Map Level for Zaire,” September 8, 1975, p. 1, 
National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire (1), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. 
The new requirement of $19 million was an increase of $15.5 million from the $3.5 million in FY 75 MAP 
funding for Zaire. Granger also told Kissinger that Vance recommended the substantial increase in order 
“to insure full support from Mobutu.” Perhaps the colonel erred in using the word “from” as opposed to 
the word “for.” More likely, however, is that once more the United States was genuflecting to the Zairian 
president to secure his continued support for the American action in Angola and probably for American 
policy throughout sub-Saharan Africa as well. Ibid. Granger also expressed his support for the increase as 
an operational necessity, and recommended that the full $19 million be included in the initial bill rather 
than as a supplemental so as not to draw “interest and questions on our rationale.” Ibid., p. 2. This 
recommendation, of course, was designed to prevent Congress from determining that the increase was 
intended to replace Zairian equipment already transferred to the FNLA and UNIT A, some of which, no 
doubt, was American, since the United States was a major supplier of weapons to Zaire (along with China, 
France and Belgium, and to a lesser extent, Israel). American law prohibited the transfer of American- 
supplied military equipment to third parties. 



416 


which is in the Dots 6 million range. Bear in mind that political action and other 
programs come out of that total, and CIA estimates transportation can add 25-50 percent 
to cost.” 574 Thus, when he met Mobutu that evening, he told him that it was necessary to 
develop a plan for the $6 million dollar package, “although we did not exclude the 
possibility of some additional assistance now.” 575 

At this point, Mobutu gave his key input into the arms packages, which the CIA no 
doubt used to develop the assistance programs for the FNLA and UNITA. First, he 
changed the priorities of what his generals had previously given Vance. He indicated that 
the most urgent requirement was for 5,000 M-16 riles with two-months ammunition, 


574 “Secretary of State Telegram 172996, Subject: Zaire Aid Package,” 230003Z July 1975, p. 1, National 
Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegram from SecState 
- NODIS, Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. In the same message Kissinger also instructed Vance to develop 
another arms package that was apparently intended to replace the Zairian military equipment which, by 
then, had already been released to the FNLA and UNITA. When Vance met with Mobutu on July 23, he 
told him that he had forwarded to Washington the list of equipment replacement requirements as well as the 
priorities for replacement that had been given to him by Mobutu’s generals, probably when he met with 
Generals Molongiya and Babia on the morning of 21 July “American Embassy Kinshasa 6755, Subject: 
Vance-Mobutu: Third Meeting; Evening July 21,” 220141Z July 1975, p. 1, National Security Adviser - 
Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (1), Box 7, 
Gerald R. Ford Library. The purpose of this meeting on 21 July, which involved the two generals but 
apparently not Mobutu, so the subject line is misleading, concerned some of the Zairian equipment being 
readied for shipment to Angola. Most of the text is deleted, but I surmise the generals made Vance aware 
of what they needed from the United States, and in what priority, to replace that equipment. They also 
must have discussed the types of equipment most urgently needed by the FNLA and UNITA, as in his July 
23 meeting with Mobutu, Vance referred to the “broad priority of categories of equipment his generals had 
given us, on his instruction, it is clear. This so we could determine the most useful types of assistance both 
for a $6 million program and for any aid we might be able to provide above that.” “American Embassy 
Kinshasa Telegram, Kinshasa 6877, Subject: Vance Mission: Fourth Meeting with Mobutu on July 23,” 
241335Z July 1975, p. 2, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976 , vol. E-6, Documents on Africa, 1973-1976 
[database on-line]; available from http://www.state.g0v/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/e6. 

7 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram, Kinshasa 6877, Subject: Vance Mission: Fourth Meeting 
with Mobutu on July 23, p. 1. 



417 


which suggests, incorrectly as it turned out, that he thought the Angolan conflict would 
be over in two months. His second priority was anti-tank guns to counter the Soviet- 
supplied armored vehicles, remarking they “were having a devastating effect on the 
FNLA.” He told Vance that the M-16s should be shipped to Zaire by air. After re- 
prioritizing a number of other weapons systems on the general’s list, he specified which 
should be shipped by air and which by sea. 

Vance cabled Kissinger that he had incorporated Mobutu’s ideas into a $6 million 
assistance package. Referencing a still-classified State Department telegram to Kinshasa, 
he reported that he had also included Mobutu’s ideas in a larger aid package. This 
second recommendation, Vance said, “incorporates Mobutu’s most urgent minimum 
requirements and, according to our rough estimates, amounts to $10 to $12 million. I 
wish to make clear Mobutu would not Rpt not regard what we could send under the $6 
million program as enough to redress the balance in Angola.” Vance then urged that 
Washington give top priority to reviewing both packages, but that he strongly 
recommended the larger assistance program “so that we will have a real impact on 
Angolan situation.” 576 

Mobutu’s appeals for more than the originally authorized amount had its desired effect 
in Washington. On July 27, two days after Vance’s return to Washington, President Ford 

576 Ibid., p. 2. 



418 


approved an additional $8 million for IAFEATURE from the CIA’s FY 75 Contingency 

577 

Reserve Fund. 

The MPLA Advances 

Between Vance’s second and third trips, the military situation in Angola had 
continued to deteriorate for the FNLA and UNIT A, despite Mobutu’s provision of 
substantial Zairian arms. As previously discussed, in early July, the MPLA had ousted 
the military forces of both movements from Luanda. The Popular Movement then 
continued its momentum by driving against the FNLA in the north and the FNLA 
(Chipenda)-UNITA coalition in central Angola. 

In early August, as the violence spiraled upward, Lisbon dispatched a three-man 
mission, headed by then Foreign Minister Melo Antunes, in another attempt to establish a 
workable transitional government. This time, their efforts involved only the MPLA and 
UNITA, since no individual leader or party in Portugal supported Holden Roberto and his 
FNLA. They were not successful. Subsequently, on August 9, the FNLA and UNITA, 


577 Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 206. Stockwell alleges that the CIA gave $2, 750,000 of the original 
$6 million to Mobutu, in cash, to encourage him to send more of his own arms to the FNLA and UNITA. 
Ibid. Given that Mobutu appeared to be single-handily shaping the form and substance of the American 
assistance, Stockwell’s allegation is probably correct and is yet another example of the United States 
mending fences and trying to convince the Zairian president of its honest efforts to attend to his most 
urgent requirements. 

578 Historian Norrie MacQueeen argues that the Portuguese attempt to broker an agreement between the 
MPLA and UNITA failed, “largely as a result of MPLA intransigence.” MacQueen, The Decolonization of 
Portuguese Africa, 185-186. The Popular Movement’s intractability at this time is not surprising since it 
was operating from a position of both political and military strength. The MPLA not only controlled the 



419 


united through their mutual hostility to the MPLA, jointly declared their departure from 
the provisional government. Shortly thereafter, spokesmen for both announced they 
would establish a rump FNLA-UNITA cabinet. 579 

Less than two weeks later, on August 22, Lisbon appointed Admiral Leonel Cardosa as 
the new high commissioner for Angola (he arrived in early September), replacing 
Brigadier General Silva Cardosa. At the same time, it announced it was suspending the 
Alvor Accord, finally abandoning any pretext of maintaining a viable provisional 

con 

government. The Portuguese actions did nothing to abate the MPLA’s offensive. By 


capital city, but also most of the other major cities and towns, including Benguela and its neighboring port 
city, Lobito, the Atlantic terminus for the Benguela railroad. In mid-August, during the State 
Department’s regularly scheduled weekly staff meetings, Edward Mulcahy from AF briefed Kissinger on 
the situation on the ground in Angola. Referring to the MPLA’s dominance, he noted that the movement 
remained in control of Benguela, but added, “Savimbi said the day before yesterday that he felt that the 
forces he and Roberto have in the vicinity would be enough to kick them out of there in a few days. We 
tend to doubt it, given their past performance.” “The Secretary’s 8 a.m. Staff Meeting,” August 15, 1975, 
p. 10 [database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, Kissinger Transcripts. 
Mulcahy’s analysis of the weakness of the FNLA-UNITA coalition was right on the mark. It was able to 
retake Benguela, and Lobito, in early November, but only with substantial help from elements of the South 
African Defense Force. Fred Bridgland’s study of Jonas Savimbi, largely based on his personal 
observations from frequent sojourns into the UNITA leader’s Central Angolan stronghold, provides a 
particularly enlightening analysis of the major South African offensive in Angola and its favorable effects, 
if only temporary, on the military fortunes of the joint UNITA-FNLA force from late October to mid- 
November. Fred Bridgland, Jonas Savimbi: A Key to Africa (Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing 
Company, Ltd., 1986), especially Chapter 12, “Prelude to Independence.” 

579 According to Edward Mulcahy of AF, the FNLA spokesman said this did not signify they were 
surrendering their governmental post, even though they had departed Luanda. “The Secretary’s 8 a.m. 
Staff Meeting,” August 15, 1975, p. 8. Despite this show of bravura, their departure from the transitional 
government left the MPLA in the driver’s seat. 

580 MacQueen notes that following the suspension of the January agreement, Portugal’s government 
undertook a major diplomatic effort to reassert its leadership in the Angolan crisis, including talks with 
officials of the United Nations and key African leaders. The objective of the endeavor was to gain 
international support for the convening of a conference between the Portuguese and all three liberation 
movements, “in which specific forms or means of transferring. . .power would be studied.” As MacQueen 



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early September, the movement had extended its control over twelve of Angola’s sixteen 

co 1 

provinces and was still on the offensive, although this was about to change. 

The Violation of American Law 

In Washington, early September found Secretary Kissinger agitated more than usual, 
mainly at Charge d’ Affaires Lannon Walker in Kinshasa. On September 4, a David 
Ottaway article, written on August 29 from Kinshasa, alleged that Zaire was using 
American -provided aircraft to transfer American- supplied arms to the FNLA in northern 

coo 

Angola. Ottaway’ s story came on the heels of an MPLA communique that reported an 

air bridge had been established between Kinshasa and Carmona, a town about 150 miles 
northeast of Luanda. The communique alleged that reliable eyewitnesses and diplomatic 
sources had seen American Skymasters (the C-54, a cargo plane in the Zairian air 
inventory) transporting “sizeable amounts of heavy war material, including long-range 
cannons and various types of equipment.” 583 


points out, this effort really signaled a return to the pre-Alvor days and, if agreed to, would have nullified 
the MPLA’s military successes. The Popular Movement rejected the Portuguese attempt to restart the 
negotiation process - and the war raged on. MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa , 187. 

581 Ibid., 186. 

5S ~ David B. Ottaway, “Washington Warns Zaire: No U.S. Weapons to Angola,” Washington Post, 
September 4, 1975. 

583 The American Consul General in Luanda, Angola, Tom Killoran, cited the entire MPLA communique in 
“American Consul Luanda, Luanda Telegram 1228, Subject: MPLA Threatens Military Action against 
Zairian and South African Forces in Angola,” 221125Z August 1975, p. 1-2 [database on-line]; available 
from Declassified Documents Reference System. Mobutu had American-supplied C-54s as well as C-130s. 



421 


Ottaway further reported that unidentified American embassy officials in Kinshasa 
had labeled the MPLA allegations as “absurd and without foundation,” but suggested that 
Zaire might be passing on American arms to the FNLA or using American- supplied 
aircraft to support the movement.” The same officials then told Ottaway that they had 
recently reiterated the legal restrictions on transfer of MAP equipment to third parties, 
“but admit that the monitoring of the use of American planes and arms given to the 
Zairian Army is a delicate problem.” 

Ottaway’ s revelations, especially the quotes from American embassy personnel, set 
off a minor shock wave in the State Department and grabbed Kissinger’s attention just 
before his September 4 weekly staff meeting. He asked the fired Nathaniel Davis, still 
haplessly filling in as African Bureau chief, if “we” had in fact discussed the restrictions 
on the transfer of MAP equipment with the Zairians. Davis replied in the affirmative, 
noting that most recently Walker had done so - on his own initiative. This piqued 

585 

Kissinger’s irritation and he asked, rhetorically, “What possessed him to do it?” 

Davis tried to protect his Kinshasa subordinate by explaining that the charge had 
confused his instructions from Washington. When Under Secretary of State Joseph Sisco 
confirmed that Walker had acted on his own, he probably saved Davis more 

584 Ottaway, “Washington Warns Zaire.” 

585 “Secretary’s Staff Meeting; Attached to Decision Summary,” September 4, 1975, pp. 33-34 [Database 
on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, Kissinger Transcripts. 



422 


embarrassment, but cost Walker his credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of the 
secretary. The annoyed Kissinger abruptly ended the discussion of Zaire and Angola by 
remarking, “Fine. I just wanted to know what the facts were.” 586 

Of interest, during Vance’s second Kinshasa visit, he reported back to Washington 
that he had “reminded” Mobutu that no American material supplied through the MAP 
program could be transferred from Zaire to another country or party. Mobutu ensured 

C07 

Vance “that no US material, no matter how old it might be, would be sent to Angola.” 
Now, however, with the Mobutu Plan in full swing, Kissinger was perturbed that Charge 
Walker had taken it upon himself to reiterate Vance’s reminder, which had really been no 
more than a wink and nod to the Zairian president, even as Mobutu’s response was a 
wink and nod to the American emissary. Moreover, Walker had apparently talked to the 
American press. Worse still. Walker’s actions came just before the Ford 
Administration’s request for an increase in FY 76 MAP funding for Mobutu’s armed 
forces. The last thing the White House wanted, or needed, at this time was any situation 

coo 

that might focus congressional attention on Zaire. 


38b Ibid., p. 34. 

587 “American Embassy Kinshasa, Kinshasa Telegram 6877, Subject: Vance Mission: Fourth Meeting 
with Mobutu July 23,” p. 2. Vance’s reminder to Mobutu, of course, allowed Washington, as necessary, to 
declare that it had reiterated the restrictions on the transfer of American arms, thereby fulfilling at least the 
spirit of congressional restrictions on such transfers. 

588 Kissinger, Vance, and others no doubt realized that some, perhaps a lot, of American equipment would 
end up in the hands of the FNLA and probably UNITA also. Vance’s “reminder” to Mobutu served a dual 
purpose. First, it provided Washington with a cover in the event of a media leak. Secondly, it sent a 



423 


The tenacious, if less that “diplomatic” Charge Walker was not silenced yet, however. 
On September 10, he sent a prescient, but prickly, telegram to the State Department, 
questioning the degree of the American commitment to Mobutu in light of what Walker 
saw as the Zairian leader’s dual objectives in Angola: defeating the MPLA and securing 

con 

Cabinda for his own purposes. The charge urged Washington to think about the 
implications for the United States of Mobutu’s growing belief that “we would help him 
impose his kind of solution in Angola and Cabinda, finance the recommendation of the 
Rockwell Report and use our money and influence to fill his $400 million deficit too.” 590 

After a lengthy discourse on that subject, Walker then predicted that, with the recent 
fall of Caxito to the MPLA, Mobutu would send his military, “in battalion strength,” into 
Angola and the FLEC into Cabinda - both of which subsequently occurred. 591 The 


message to Mobutu that while he had been apprised of the restrictions, the United States would not monitor 
the use of such equipment, especially as its employment affected the agreed-upon Mobutu Plan. 

589 No doubt Walker had been told by his superiors in the State Department, even as the American 
Congress and public were later told, that the United States’ objective was to establish a military balance on 
the ground between the MPLA and the pro-Western factions, compelling them to return to the negotiations 
table to work out a peaceful transition to independence. From his vantage point in Kinshasa, however, the 
American charge realized that Mobutu wanted a victory, and he mistakenly thought this contradicted the 
American goal. 

590 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 8192, Subject: Zaire Economic Situation/ Angolan War,” 
101550Z September 1975, p. 1, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - 
State Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (2), Gerald R. Ford Library. See note 572 on p. 327 for 
an explanation of the Rockwell Report. 

591 Mobutu’s desire to dominate, or at leave have an important say, in the affairs of oil-rich Cabinda, led 
him to support one faction of the bifurcated, secessionist Front for the Liberation of the Cabindan Enclave 
(FLEC). Zaire’s often-hostile neighbor across the Congo River, the Congo (Brazzaville), supported the 
other faction for the same reason. Mobutu argued that the enclave should be entitled to determine for itself 
its future relationship with Angola proper. This, however, flew in the face of the stance taken by all three 



424 


charge wrapped up his missive by remarking that, from the standpoint of American 
interests, we should not allow Mobutu “to pull us into an untenable position. Therefore, 
unless we are certain we can provide the increased financial and military resources which 
will inevitably be required by the current trends - we had better tell Mobutu to slow 

CQO 

down in Angola and Cabinda and turn to work on his economic problems.” 

In his memoirs, Kissinger doesn’t tell us whether or not he personally saw this cable 

cqo 

from Walker. What Walker was saying, however, sounded much like the ill-fated 


Angolan liberation movements that Cabinda was an integral part of Angola. By early June 1975, the 
MPLA controlled the enclave and both FLEC factions were in disarray. However, according to John 
Stockwell, Mobutu approached the CIA in October 1975 with a plan to invade and annex Cabinda. In 
response, the Agency provided a one-thousand-man arms package, while CIA officers began training FLEC 
guerrillas in Zaire. On November 2, 1975, a joint Zairian-FLEC military force invaded the enclave. The 
MPLA and its Cuban advisers repelled the intruders who hastily retreated back to Zaire. Stockwell, In 
Search of Enemies, 163-164. On FLEC’s origins and evolution, see Phyllis M. Martin, “The Cabinda 
Connection,” passim. 

592 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 8192, Subject: Zaire Economic Situation/ Angolan War,” p. 3. 

593 Kissinger does tell us that on October 16, 1975, he met with a Foreign Service Officer stationed in 
Kinshasa, whom he called back to Washington for a personal conversation, after the officer had sent a 
message on the Zaire-Angolan situation through the State Department’s “dissent channel.” Kissinger, Years 
of Renewal, 792-793. The official’s identity remains anonymous, but Kissinger’s “Mr. X” was probably 
Charge Walker, because the chances of its being someone else are remote. First, by at least early 
September, as discussed above, Kissinger was annoyed with the charge. Secondly, on October 11, another 
American Embassy Kinshasa cable arrived in Washington. This was sent in the dissent channel, and the 
upper echelons of the State Department did not receive it well. William G. Hyland, for example, gave 
Kissinger his assessment of the cable’s contents, dismissing the recommendations as “naive,” and the 
overall analysis as “limp and with almost meaningless alternative policy suggestions.” “Memorandum 
from William G. Hyland to The Secretary, Subject: Comments on Embassy Kinshasa Cable on Angola,” 
October 15, 1975, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, vol. E-6, Documents on Africa, 1973-1976 (Database on- 
line]; available from http://www.state.g0v/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/e6. In the October Kinshasa cable. Walker 
indicated in the first paragraph that the political and economic officers of his staff, and not he, had prepared 
the analysis, and that they were not privy to a detailed knowledge of the American involvement in Angola. 
“The drafters,” he said, “have accepted the fact that I cannot share with them all the information pertinent 
to such an analysis and they understand the message must be sent in this channel.” The authors assessed 
the risks to American interests in the region, given what they knew of the current policy, and recommended 



425 


Ambassador Hinton’s message to Mobutu during his brief, unproductive service in 
Kinshasa prior to his expulsion. While Kissinger tolerated and often encouraged 
dissenting opinions prior to a decision, once that decision was made, all levels of the 
bureaucracy were expected to fully support it, without question and without leaking it to 
the media . 594 Walker’s initiative, at another time, might have earned Kissinger’s 
grudging respect. But his cable came nearly two months after the presidential decision to 


a change of course - “an alternative policy line” - in their own words, including a series of “fail safe” 
check points that would trigger a full reassessment of the policy prior to any further American commitment 
of resources. What they didn’t know at the time was that at least one of those crucial check points had 
already been passed - that of their suggested policy barrier to the transshipment to Angola of American- 
supplied equipment. In general, the message was highly critical of the extant American policy in Zaire and 
Angola, especially what they perceived as an open-ended American commitment to Mobutu, noting, “US 
and Zairian interests in Angola are not perfectly congruent. In some circumstances Mobutu, after accepting 
substantial US aid, might opt for a solution which would cover his interests (assured access to the sea, a 
secure border with Angola, guaranteed use of the Benguela railroad) but leave ours unprotected.” As the 
charge. Walker was responsible for the actions of his subordinates, despite his disclaimer to authorship of 
the message. Given this, it is most likely that Walker, himself, was summoned to Washington to meet with 
the secretary. Kissinger’s account of his “personal conversation” with the Kinshasa emissary comes across 
as professional, if not cordial. He explained his own analysis of the situation and the consequences for 
southern African is the United States stood idly by while the Soviet Union imposed a Communist 
government in Angola. Naturally, for Kissinger, he later reaffirmed what he said that day as the correct 
assessment of the Angolan situation. I venture a guess that the conversation was probably one-sided with 
“Mr. X” having little or no opportunity to further explain the cable’s content. This discussion is based on 
“American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 9078/1, Subject: The US, Zaire and Angola,” 1 10955Z October 
1975, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, vol. E-6, Documents on Africa, 1973-1976 [Database on-line]; 
available from http://www.state.g0v/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/e6. 

594 A Ford-Kissinger conversation in late December provides valuable insight into Kissinger’s fixation on 
blind loyalty among his staff at the State Department (and the National Security Council). As the two 
discussed the impending vote on the Tunney Amendment, he told Ford that he was “purging” the African 
Bureau as a result of an apparent leak to the New York Times on American involvement in Angola. A while 
later, probably still dwelling on the “house cleaning” in his department, he told the president, “It is not just 
Angola. I think when you make a decision it is the responsibility of each agency head to pull his 
department in line.” “Memorandum of Conversation,” December 18, 1975, pp. 1-2, National Security 
Adviser - Memoranda of Conversation, 1973-1977, December 18, 1975 - Ford, Kissinger, Scowcroft, Box 
17, Gerald R. Ford Library. 



426 


intervene and the initiation of the Mobutu Plan. In early September, Charge Walker was 
walking on very thin ice, but as a minor player in the execution of the plan, his on-site 
advice could be ignored, which it was. 

As noted above, in his 10 September cable, Walker had predicted that Mobutu would 
send in his own forces to retake Caxito, a crucial crossroads city, thirty miles north of 
Luanda. The next day during the weekly State Department staff meeting, William 
Hyland, head of the department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, brought up the 
subject, suggesting that he, at least, had reviewed the “Walkergram.” Hyland told 
Secretary Kissinger that the FNLA had suffered a very bad defeat at the town and that 
Mobutu thought he might have to send in his own forces, “thinly disguised,” to save the 
situation. 

Kissinger then told the much-beleaguered Nathaniel Davis that he hoped the 
“missionary bureau” was going to keep its mouth shut and not advise Mobutu on his 
course of action. Davis said they would do their best to remain silent, but later, he 
apparently couldn’t pass up the opportunity to open his mouth. He recommended to 
Kissinger that Sheldon Vance be sent to Kinshasa, a visit that was probably already 
planned, to “at least advise [Mobutu] of the problem, if he send units in with American 
equipment, because of the legal problem.” Before Kissinger had an opportunity to 
respond, Davis was rescued by William Hyland, who defused a potential secretarial 



427 


blowup by declaring, “Who will know that Mobuto’s units have American equipment? I 
mean it won’t be that clear. And the NPLA forces will know and so forth, but it won’t be 
demonstrable. They’re not going to be flying Zairian flags .” 595 

The above discussion demonstrates that Kissinger and those closest to him, such as 
Hyland, whom Kissinger had brought over from the National Security Council staff, were 
not particularly concerned about Mobutu’s use, in any manner of his choosing, of 
American-supplied equipment. Washington, after all, had bought off on the Mobutu 
Plan, which essentially gave the Zairian leader a free rein in the joint American-Zairian 
program for Angola. To no avail, Charge Walker’s telegram had pointed out the perils of 
this major concession. 

Kissinger, however, apparently thought Mobutu so indispensable to American foreign 
policy in Angola, throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and in Third World arenas that he was 
not particularly concerned that Mobutu, with Washington’s blessing, was violating 
American law; that in the pursuit of his own local interests, which he couched in global, 
adversarial terms in his frequent references to Soviet activities in Angola, he might be 
“pulling” the United States “into an untenable position,” as Walker had forewarned. 


595 “Secretary’s Staff Meeting,” September 11, 1975, pp. 27-29 [Database on-line]; available from Digital 
National Security Archive, Kissinger Transcripts. 



428 


The Vance Mission - Third Trip 

Kissinger did send Vance back to Kinshasa, but not because Nathaniel Davis had 
recommended it and certainly not to advise Mobutu of the congressional restrictions on 
his use of American equipment. Vance, accompanied again by Cutler, arrived in 
Kinshasa on September 18. He met with Mobutu at least three times, on September 19, 
20 and 22. He also spent over an hour with Jonas Savimbi on the 19 th ' It appears that 
Vance undertook this final visit to Kinshasa to review certain operational and logistic 
matters connected to the Mobutu Plan, including the increasing involvement of South 
Africa. 

Mobutu first briefed the American emissary on the FNLA’s ongoing efforts, along 
with Zairian forces, to retake Caxito, an important crossroads city just north of Luanda, 
and on UNITA’s actions in central Angola, including Savimbi’ s intentions to move 
against the MPLA in Lobito and Benguela on the coast. He told Vance, however, that the 
latter effort was contingent on the delivery of additional arms to UNITA, especially the 
American-supplied weapons and equipment, which had recently arrived in Zaire by 
ship. 596 Mobutu expressed his satisfaction with this equipment, but then asked for 
additional supplies, especially 120mm ammunition, increased American airlift support, 

596 Mobutu was no doubt referring to the military cargo onboard the merchant ship, American Champion, 
which the CIA had leased from the U.S. Navy. It arrived in the port of Matadi (Zaire) on September 12. 
Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 86. 



429 


and more jeeps and trucks, in order to solve “the horrendous logistical problems in 
Angola.” 597 

Vance’s meeting with Jonas Savimbi on September 19 included the UNITA leader’s 
own assessment of his operations against the MPLA in eastern Angola along the 
Benguela Railroad and his preparations to launch an offensive westward to take Lobito 
and Benguela from the MPLA. As Mobutu had previously indicated, Savimbi told Vance 
he was low on arms and ammunition, which was delaying this movement. However, 
with the help of the South Africans, he expected to receive UNITA’ s share of the 

598 

American-provided military equipment shortly. 

Savimbi then adamantly denied recent news reports that UNITA was about to enter a 
coalition with the MPLA against the FNLA, telling Vance that he “would never join with 
the MPLA in fighting against the FNLA.” 599 John Stockwell gave us insight into this 
denial. In September, the CIA learned from an article in the world press that Savimbi had 


allegedly sent out feelers to the MPLA for “a negotiated solution.” A CIA official in 


597 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 8519, Subject: Third Vance Mission: First Meeting with 
Mobutu, September 19,” p. 3, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - 
State Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (2), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. 

598 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 8520, Subject: Third Vance Mission: With Savimbi,” 
September 19, 1975, pp. 1-2, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - 


State Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (2), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. 
599 Ibid., p. 3. 



430 


Kinshasa “promptly interrogated Savimbi” because, according to Stockwell, “We wanted 
no ‘soft’ allies in our war against the MPLA.” 600 

Savimbi impressed Vance. Noting that this was his first encounter with the UNITA 
leader, he described Savimbi as “an impressive interlocuteur - articulate, candid, 
energetic and congenial.” Moreover, Vance added, “He obviously appreciates the 
support we are giving him.” 601 

During his meeting with Mobutu on September 22, the Zairian president told Vance 
that the South Africans had assigned advisers to UNITA. They were also supporting its 
POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) requirements since he “had his hands full” in helping 
the FNLA and could only provide equipment to UNITA. Vance reported that General 
Vandenbergh, the head of South African security (BOSS), had made three recent trips to 
Kinshasa, and had “doubtless” arranged this South African assistance. 602 

By the time Vance arrived in Zaire, the on-the-ground military situation had begun to 
turn against the MPLA. By mid-September, the Popular Movement found itself battling 


600 Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 193. 

601 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 8520, Subject: Third Vance Mission: With Savimbi,” p. 4. 

602 “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 8557, Subject: Third Vance Mission: Meeting with Mobutu 
September 22,” p. 2, National Security Adviser - Presidential Country Files for Africa, Zaire - State 
Department Telegrams to SecState - NODIS (2), Box 7, Gerald R. Ford Library. Piero Gleijeses has 
observed that in September the South Africans promised support to the FNLA as well as UNITA. On 
September 4, Prime Minister Vorster “authorized the SADF to provide military training, advice and 
logistical support to UNITA and FNLA. In turn, they would help expel SWAPO from southern Angola.” 
Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions , 295. The FNLA in central and southern Angola was that of Chipenda and 
his guerrilla forces. 



431 


not only the FNLA in the northern and central fronts, but also two battalions of Mobutu’s 
own “elite” paracommando forces. According to John Stockwell, the 4 th and 7 th 
paracommando battalions entered the Angolan fray on September 1 1 and were largely 
responsible for retaking Caxito from the MPLA on September 17 . 603 In the September 
22 nd meeting, Vance was quick to congratulate Mobutu on this important victory and the 
primary role played by his armed forces. Mobutu, “relaxed and expansive,” indicated he 
would soon commit another battalion to the Angolan conflict. Thus, by mid-October, 


603 Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 163. Portuguese historian Fernando Guimaraes and John Marcum 
both claim that as early as the middle of May Zairian army elements were operating inside Angola with the 
FNLA. Citing a Colin Legum article, which appeared in the May 18 edition of the London Observer, 
Guimaraes calculated that 1,200 Zairian troops were inside Angola at the time. Guimaraes, The Origins of 
the Angolan Civil War, 105. Marcum alleges this early deployment was Mobutu’s “incensed” response to 
the MPLA’s recruitment of the anti-Kinshasa Katangan gendarmes (an estimated 3,500 - 7,000 strong), 
who took refuge in eastern Angola after Tshombe’s unsuccessful secession attempt in 1960. Marcum, The 
Angolan Revolution The, vol. II, 278. Their assertions are confirmed by primary evidence. In late May 
1975, President Ford, while in Brussels for a NATO summit meeting, met with Portuguese Prime Minister 
Goncalves. Kissinger’s background briefing note to the president mentioned that Goncalves had 
previously asked Ambassador Carlucci, in Lisbon, “if the U.S. could intercede with President Mobutu of 
Zaire. He said Mobutu had broken his promise not to involve himself in Angola and was sending men and 
equipment to one of the liberation groups contending for power.” Kissinger told the president that if 
Goncalves raised this issue, the response should be, “Our own policy is one of neutrality. We do not 
believe it correct for us to suggest positions to Mobutu.” “Meeting with Prime Minister Goncalves of 
Portugal,” May 29, 1975, pp. 2, 7 [Database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, 
Kissinger Transcripts. At any rate, the introduction of the 4 th and 7 th paracommando battalions in 
September not only changed the complexion of the ground war, at least temporarily, but also represented a 
major escalation, which was exceeded only by the introduction of substantial elements of the South African 
Defense Force in October. 



432 


with the addition of yet another battalion, Zaire would have a total of four battalions in 
action in Angola. 604 

With these forces augmenting the FNLA, Mobutu said he hoped to retake five of the 
twelve provinces then held by the MPLA. While he did not expect to retake Luanda by 
Independence Day, November 11, he did anticipate having “a strangulation grip” on the 
capital city. In concluding his cable, Vance remarked that throughout his discussions, he 
had made a point of “conveying our admiration” to Mobutu for his efforts in Angola and 
had assured him of continued American support, yet another example of Washington’s 
fawning to ensure the “continued support” of its chosen regional strong man. 605 

Pericentrism: Did the Zairian Tail Wag the American Dog? 

It is clear from the available records of Vance’s tri -partite mission, as well as the 
actions in Washington that issued from his findings and recommendations, that President 
Mobutu was a significant factor in the American decision to intervene in Angola. His 
advice, recommendations and contributions primarily shaped the form and substance of 
the American involvement. However, did Washington’s close connection to Mobutu and 
“Dr. Kissinger’s desire to reward and protect African leaders,” as the Pike Committee 


4 Mobutu said he had to commit more of his own forces because he “continued to be disappointed with 
the military capabilities of the FNLA and UNITA.” “American Embassy Kinshasa Telegram 8557, Subject: 
Third Vance Mission: Meeting with Mobutu September 22,” p.1-2. 

605 Ibid., p. 2. 



433 


alleged, really constitute a case of inordinate Zairian influence on the American decision 
to intervene ? 606 

There is no denying that certain dynamics of Tony Smith’s pericentric framework 
operated throughout the course of the American involvement in Angola. As previously 
discussed, he argues that in explaining the expansion of the Cold War into the Third 
World, it is necessary to recognize the agency of peripheral “junior actors” who often 
played a major role in the global struggle between the East and West. They were able to 
use that struggle to advance their own local or regional interests by camouflaging them in 
Cold War terms and sometimes “pulling” the super powers into the situation . 607 

Mobutu certainly exercised his personal agency throughout the building conflict, as 
evidenced by the development and execution of the Mobutu Plan. Moreover, he cloaked 
his local interests, which entailed having a major voice in the future of both Angola and 
Cabinda, and perhaps even annexing the latter, in East-West adversarial rhetoric, 


606 qa Report the President Doesn’t Want to Read,” 85 . Based on what Kissinger had been asserting 
as the reasons for the American involvement. The Pike Committee actually suggested three factors 
involved in the American decision to intervene. First, the Soviet Union’s support for the MPLA and its 
own interventionist policy in Angola, as well as its increasing activities in Africa; secondly, the American 
policy of encouraging “moderate” liberation movements in the region; thirdly, American interest in the 
stability of the Mobutu regime as well as that of other pro-Western leaders in southern Africa. However, 
the committee clearly intimated the importance of Zaire by noting, “Past support to Mobutu, along with his 
responsiveness to some of the United States’ recent diplomatic needs for Third World support, make it 
equally likely that the paramount factor in the U.S. involvement is Dr. Kissinger’s desire to reward and 
protect African leaders in the area.” Ibid. 

607 Smith, “New Bottles for New Wine,” passim. 



434 


continuously iterating the mantra that a Soviet-dominated Angola would have grave 
consequences for pro-American Zaire. 

There is a fine line, at least in theory, between Mobutu’s “pulling” and the United 
States’ “pushing” itself into the conflict. I recognize that the Zairian president was an 
important catalyst in the American decision-making process on Angola and principally 
provided the mechanism by which the intervention could and would take place. 

However, I do not believe that Mobutu was the preeminent reason for President’s Ford 
decision. Mobutu’s pleas for an active American role in Angola would probably have 
gone unanswered, even after the alleged coup and Hinton’s expulsion, if not for Henry 
Kissinger’s strong proclivity to view the unfolding Angolan crisis not only as a challenge 
to American power and leadership, but also, and especially, as an opportunity to restore 
American credibility. Consequently, his strong advocacy to the president for American 
intervention eventually ruled the day. 

As least as early as the first week in June 1975, Kissinger was urging President Ford 
to seriously consider some active form of American involvement in Angola. On June 6, 
for example, he told the president that they had to pay attention to Angola. He pointed 
out that the Soviet Union was backing Neto of the MPLA and suggested that the United 
States should work through Mobutu to support Holden Roberto because, “I don’t think 



435 


we want the Communists there .” 608 In a discussion with the president ten days later, 
Kissinger again said they needed to discuss Angola. He communicated the seriousness of 
the situation for the pro-Westem factions by remarking, “With the aid of Portugal and the 
Soviet Union, the MPLA is on the offensive and may even take Luanda.” He then 
implied that increased military support to Robert, via Zaire, was the only way to prevent 
an MPLA victory, concluding, “We don’t want to see a Communist government in 
Angola .” 609 

Kissinger seemed intent on involving the United States in the growing Angolan 
conflict. He saw Mobutu as the necessary facilitator for American intervention, given 
Zaire’s proximity and access to Angola and the close Mobutu-Roberto relationship. Still, 
I maintain that the Zairian president was no more than a very important cog in 
Kissinger’s determination to counter the Soviet Union globally by preventing an 
important regional Communist victory. Further, since Mobutu was increasingly 
dependent upon the United States and the West in general, given his woeful economic 
situation, the United States maintained enormous leverage over Kinshasa. One of 
Kissinger’s major tasks in this whole affair was to convince the American president of 
the necessity for active intervention. Given Ford’s deep concerns about the Soviet Union 


608 “Memorandum of Conversation between President Ford and Dr. Henry Kissinger,” June 6, 1975, p. 4 
[Database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, Kissinger Transcripts. 

609 “Memorandum of Conversation between President Ford and Dr. Henry Kissinger,” June 16, 1975, p. 2 
[Database on-line]; available from Digital National Security Archive, Kissinger Transcripts. 



436 


and the importance of American leadership and resolve in meeting what he perceived as 
the growing Communist threat, the sales job was not difficult. 

Pericentrism: The Washington-Pretoria Axis 

One other regional “friend” in southern Africa deserves consideration in my 
discussion of the degree to which Angola’s neighbors influenced the American decision 
to intervene. That is the minority white-ruled Republic of South Africa (RSA). The 
adoption of Option Two, the “Tilt” Policy, in early 1970 had enhanced South Africa’s 
standing in Washington. Moreover, Pretoria enjoyed a discreetly close relation with the 
United States’ military and intelligence communities, especially the CIA. That 
relationship was further cultivated by an increasing number of “unofficial” visits by 
South African officials to Washington in 1974, especially after the Portuguese coup of 
April. 610 

Given the close and growing relationship in the early 1970s, the South Africans had 
ample opportunities to provide some of the information, at least at lower levels, which 
flowed into the American decision-making process on Angola. As this situation relates to 
the discussion of pericentrism, the question before us, of course, is “Did South Africa 


610 David B. Ottaway, “South Africa Seeks U.S. Support,” Washington Post, May 12, 1974. Although the 
United States banned official visits by South African government authorities, the State Department 
routinely granted visas when private organizations sponsored the individual, as was the case for Admiral 
Hugo H. Biermann, the South African Defense Force Minister. He visited Washington in May 1974 under 
the auspices of the United States Strategic Institute, but met with Secretary of Navy J. William Middendorf, 
among other American officials. Ibid. 



437 


influence the American decision-making process on Angola to the extent that it ‘pulled’ 
the United States into a conflict in which it had only minimal interests?” 

The question may never be definitively answered, because the evidence on the exact 
nature of the Washington-Pretoria relationship throughout the Angolan conflict is scarce 
and often contradictory. 61 1 Despite that, there are some indicators, mostly from the South 
African side, that suggest it was the United States - not South Africa - that did most of 
the pulling, especially as it concerns the RSA’s full-scale invasion in mid-October 1975. 

Before I discuss this assessment, however, a brief background on the South African 
stakes in the outcome of the Angolan conflict will highlight why Pretoria saw a possible 
MPLA victory as so threatening. This potential outcome weighed heavily in its decision- 
making on Angola. 

South African Regional Detente 

Although Washington was slow to recognize the consequences for its “Tilt” policy in 
the wake of Lisbon’s decision to grant independence to its African colonies, Pretoria 
lived in the neighborhood and responded quickly to the changing environment. Its post- 
coup strategy, termed detente, sought to maintain stability in central and southern Africa 


611 Many of the official American documents on the Angolan war remain classified. Moreover, the 
declassified record is largely silent on South Africa. The CIA’s own methods for conducting IAFEATURE 
business also contributed to this lack of primary evidence. As John Stockwell has written, the Agency 
carried out much of its communications very discreetly in what he terms “soft, “ unofficial,” or 
“convenience” files. “Such files are not registered in the agency’s official records system, and hence can 
never be disclosed under the FOIA.” Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, note on bottom of p. 228. 



438 


through a diplomatic offensive directed at the moderate black states in the region, 
including the offer of substantial financial and technical assistance. In return, and of 
crucial importance to South Africa’s apartheid policy, its detente partners accepted the 
basic principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states. South Africa’s 
new policy also entailed an official distancing from white minority ruled Rhodesia and 
pressure on the Ian Smith government to move towards majority rule . 612 

The detente policy played upon the moderates’ fears of Communist incursions into the 
region and, as journalist John de St. Jorre has observed, used the resources of 
multinational corporations whose “money helped oil the sensitive machinery of black- 
and-white diplomacy .” 61 3 The South African initiative resulted in some success, 
including “full diplomatic relations with Malawi; working relations with Botswana, 
Lesotho, and Swaziland; and friendly contacts with a handful of more distant states, the 
most important being the Ivory Coast and Senegal .” 614 

Pretoria’s detente policy also extended to the soon to be independent Mozambique. 
This somewhat unusual situation came about because of the historical interdependence of 
the two nation’s economies. Pretoria, for example, depended on Mozambique’s 


61 ~ The Salisbury government apparently recognized what detente meant for its future relationship with 
Pretoria. Piero Gleijeses quoted the head of the Rhodesian intelligence service as having written, “South 
Africa, in search of ‘detente’ with Black Africa, is prepared to ditch us.” Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 
274. 

613 John de St. Jorre, “South Africa: Up Against the World,” Foreign Policy , no. 28 (Fall 1977): 59. 
614 T u;j ha 



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substantial labor force and its railroads, which connected South Africa to the seaports of 
Maputo and Beira and alleviated the congestion in its own harbors. 615 These 
arrangements, in turn, brought substantial economic benefits to Mozambique. 

Governance by a leftist FRELIMO could not alter the symbiotic reality, even if the public 
rhetoric of both nations appeared to put them on a collision course. As the major Zambia 
newspaper, Zambia Daily Mail, noted in April 1975 as Mozambique’s June independence 
approached, “Looking to the future, South Africa is fairly confident that its financial 
tentacles will be sufficient to grasp an independent Mozambique in a close if cool 
embrace.” 616 

Angola was a different matter. Much more than Mozambique, Angola presented the 
South African government with a particularly vexing security situation. Although South 
Africa had a vested interested in the Cunene River hydroelectric complex, as previously 
discussed, its “financial tentacles” did not permeate the Angolan economy. As a 
consequence, unlike Mozambique, Pretoria would have little, if any, leverage with the 
large, rich, and soon-to-be independent country to its north. This problem was further 


615 Kenneth Maxwell discusses the important economic interdependence of the South African and 
Mozambican economies in “The Legacy of Decolonization,” in Regional Conflict and U.S. Policy: Angola 
and Mozambique, ed. Richard J. Bloomfield (Algonac, MI: Reference Publications, Inc., 1988), 7-39. 
Maxwell noted that Mozambique provided twenty-five percent of the Republic’s mining labor force. In 
addition to South Africa, the ports of Maputo and Beira also served Rhodesia and Malawi, and 2/3 of 
Mozambique’s rolling stock was used for international traffic associated with these three southern African 
nations. Ibid., 13. 

616 As quoted in Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions , 275. 



440 


aggravated by the uncertain political and military situation in Angola, where three 
liberation groups were vying for power, and the insurgent activities of the South West 
African People’s Organization (SWAPO). 

SWAPO, which waged guerrilla warfare against South Africa’s illegal occupation of 
South West Africa, frequently operated out of southeastern Angola. Prior to the 
Portuguese coup, Lisbon had given Pretoria a green light to conduct operations against 
the liberation movement’s Angolan camps. However, in September of 1974, the new 
Lisbon government informed the South African government that no more cross-border 
operations would be allowed. As a result, ‘“In November SWAPO camps of up to 
seventy men were already in place.’ Unrest increased in Namibia, particularly among 
Ovambos, and by the end of 1974 more than 3,000 youths had gone to Angola, many of 
them to join SWAPO.” 617 

Pretoria’s Decision to Assist the Anti-MPLA Coalition 

Given South African fears that the MPLA might win in Angola and then support 
SWAPO, the South Africans decided to extend a helping hand to the ostensibly pro- 
Western Jonas Savimbi of UNITA and Holden Roberto of the FNLA. Savimbi was the 

617 Ibid., 273. Gleijeses’ information is based on a book by Commander Sophie du Preez entitled Avontuur. 
Du Preez was a member of the supervisory committee formed in 1978 to oversee the writing of the 
“official” story of the South African involvement in Angola and had access to government documents on 
the intervention, code named Operation Savannah. The Ovambos were the largest ethnic group in South 
West Africa and southern Angola. 



441 


first to come courting, as he began a series of regular meetings with mid-level South 
African officials as early as February 1975. Following a meeting in London, in April, in 
which Savimbi promised not to support SWAPO if he came to power in Angola, Pretoria 
gave him a small amount of weapons and some financial support. Meanwhile, Holden 
Roberto was also in contact with the South Africans. After expressing his dislike for 
SWAPO and his desire for friendly relations with Pretoria, he also received some military 
and financial assistance 618 

Both F. J. du Toit Spies, whom Pretoria commissioned to write the official version of 
Operasie Savannah (Operation Savannah) in 1978, and historian James Roherty tell us 
that in late May, Prime Minister Vorster asked the SADF and BOSS to provide a joint 
assessment of the Angolan situation. They submitted their finished report to the prime 
minister on June 25. According to Spies, it “concluded that civil war in Angola was 
inevitable and that the MPLA would win, with Soviet help. Only South African 
assistance to a united FNLA-UNITA front. . . .might prevent an MPLA victory.” The 


618 Ibid., 275. South African historian James Roherty, whom Gleijeses describes as a well-informed scholar 
on the South African invasion, asserts that the South African-Savimbi relationship dated back to 1966 when 
Savimbi formed UNITA after leaving the FNLA, in 1964, in anger and disgust with Holden Roberto. “This 
is the same year in which John Vorster becomes Prime Minister of the RSA. . .and P W Botha, Minister of 
Defense. While maintaining contact with FNLA, Pretoria from this point on (well ahead of Washington) 
identifies UNITA’s charismatic and accomplished commandante as the preferred option in Angola.” James 
M. Roherty, State Security in South Africa: Civil-Military Relations under P. W. Botha (Armonk, NY: M. 
E. Sharpe, Inc., 1992), 35. 



442 


report also noted that if Pretoria took a hands-off stance, this “would without doubt 
encourage a takeover by a pro-communist force friendly to SWAPO.” 619 

As previously discussed, in early July 1975, the MPLA drove the FNLA and UNITA 
out of Luanda and began its major offensive against them in northern and central Angola. 
As the military situation for the anti-MPLA coalition rapidly deteriorated, Pretoria again 
took quick action. Prime Minister Vorster asked his SADF Director of Operations, 
General Constand Viljoen, and the head of BOSS, General Hendrik van den Bergh, to lay 
out an arms package for both Savimbi and Roberto in the amount of $14.1 million. On 
July 14, after the prime minister had received the recommended weapons list, he 
approved it. His only condition, according to Spies, was “that the weapons be bought 
abroad in order to hide Pretoria’s involvement. The decision had been reached without 
any dissent.” 620 


619 F. J. du Toit Spies, Operasie Savannah, Angola 1975-1976 (Pretoria: S. A. Weermang, 1989), 63-64, as 
cited in Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 176; Roherty, State Security in South A.frica, 73. 

6-0 Spies, Operasie Savannah, 64-65, as cited in Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions. See also Roherty, State 
Security in South Africa, 73. Pretoria’s intervention in Angola unfolded in a series of escalating military 
steps in support of the FNLA and UNITA and increased incursions into southern Angola in hot pursuit of 
SWAPO insurgents. In order to facilitate both the FNLA’s and UNITA’ s ability to use the weapons 
provided by the $14.1 million, in early to mid-September 1975, two small units of SADF advisers, trainers 
and logistic experts began to arrive in southern and central Angola. The first group trained some of Daniel 
Chipenda’s FNLA forces in a camp located about 30 miles north of the Namibian border. The second 
group trained UNITA in a base near Calombo, a small town in Angola’s central highlands. In return for 
this hands-on support, both the FNLA and UNITA promised to assist South Africa in expelling SWAPO 
from its Angolan bases. They fulfilled their promise, as Gleijeses notes. “Throughout September, the 
SADF launched raids across the border to eliminate SWAPO. UNITA and the FNLA, ‘both now allies of 
the Republic of South Africa, helped locate the SWAPO bases... The Portuguese said nothing.” Conflicting 
Missions, 295. The continuing success of the MPLA’s northern and southern offensives, which resulted in 



443 


The Nature of the US-RSA Relationship in Angola 

James Roherty maintains that Prime Minister Vorster decided to “sound out” 
Washington in late June after he had received the SADF-BOSS assessment of the 
Angolan situation and before he made his final decision on 14 July. He further notes that 
Pretoria’s approach included the suggestion that the two governments collaborate in their 
response to the Angolan conflict, including sending in troops. 621 If Roherty is correct. 


the Popular Movement’s control of twelve of Angola’s sixteen provinces by mid-September, brought a 
deeper South African commitment. The reality of the military weakness of UNITA was demonstrated in 
early October when the MPLA, advancing toward Savimbi’s capital at Nova Lisboa (now Huambo, in 
central Angola), crushed a South African-led UNITA unit. Spies wrote that this encounter “made it clear 
that UNITA. . . was not able to resist the FAPLA [the MPLA’s military wing] without help. The choice lay 
between active South African military participation on the one hand and - in effect - acceptance of an 
MPLA victory on the other.” Ibid. According to one South African historian, Pretoria’s decision to 
intervene on a major scale occurred in early October, probably just after the defeat of the SADF-UNITA 
unit on October 5. Robin Hallett, “The South African Intervention in Angola, 1975-76,” African Affairs 77, 
no. 308 (July 1978), 366. Task Force Zulu led off the large-scale invasion on or about October 14. Its 
mission, according to military historian Helmoed-Romer Heitman was to gain as much ground as possible 
before November 11, Angola’s scheduled Independence Day. Helmoed-Romer Heitman, South African 
War Machine (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1985), 171. The task force raced northward up Angola’s coast, 
while another unit. Task Force Foxbat, advanced quickly to the northwest through southern and central 
Angola. The MPLA, assisted at first by its Cuban trainers and advisers, and commencing on November 9, 
by newly arriving Cuban combatants, eventually stopped both task forces before they reached Luanda. 
Thereafter, the MPLA went on the offensive. Some twenty miles north of Luanda, the MPLA and their 
Cuban allies routed Holden Roberto’s FNLA, supported by the Zairian 7 th and 4 th Battalions and CIA and 
SADF advisers, at the battle of Guifangondo on November 11. Roberto’s forces retreated hastily back to 
Zaire. Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 213-215, and Heitman, South African War Machine, 173. South 
Africa began a withdrawal in mid-January 1976. By late January, it was largely completed, although a 
number of SADF troops remained in Angola just north of the Namibian border. They were allegedly 
withdrawn by late March 1976. David B. Ottaway, “S. Africa Says Its Angolan Allies Prevented Total 
Victory,” Washington Post, February 3, 1977, sec. A, p. 16. At the height of its invasion, the total SADF 
commitment was at least 2,000 men, augmented by elements from Chipenda’s FNLA, UNITA, 
mercenaries, and Caprivian Bushmen. Heitman, South African War Machine, 170, and Ottaway, “S. Africa 
Says Its Angolan Allies Prevented Total Victory.” 

6-1 Roherty, State Security in South Africa, 36, 73. Roherty does not explain how Pretoria communicated 
with Washington. 



444 


this may have been the first high-level contact between Washington and Pretoria on the 
brewing crisis in Angola, although it is not unreasonable to suggest that there had been 
earlier contacts at lower levels, including liaison between the CIA station in Pretoria and 
BOSS. 

Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Reagan Administration, 
Chester Crocker, who undoubtedly had access to the classified record on the Angolan 
crisis in his State Department position, supports much of what Roherty has written. He 
tells us, for example, that throughout the spring of 1975, Pretoria was in close contact 
with “all the Western and African players” in the Angolan conflict and began providing 
covert aid to both the FNLA and UNITA. Also “Zairean army units had started to deploy 
across the border into northern Angola in support of the FNLA. Washington, of course, 
was well aware of these moves: our winks and nods formed part of the calculus of 
Angola’s neighbors.” 622 

At this point in time (spring to early summer 1975), then, it appears that Washington 
and Pretoria were in regular contact over the Angolan situation and probably discussing 
their respective roles in support of the anti-MPLA forces. Moreover, although it may 
only be coincidental, President Ford authorized IAFEATURE on July 18, only four days 


6-2 Chester Crocker, High Noon in Southern Africa: Making Peace in a Rough Neighborhood (New York: 
W. W. Norton & Company, 1992), 49. 



445 


after Prime Minister Vorster had approved South Africa’s own escalated covert support 
to the FNLA and UNITA. 

Henry Kissinger has denied any American cooperation, or “collusion” in his own 
words, with Pretoria. He also has claimed that the United States had no foreknowledge 
of South Africa’s intentions to invade Angola . 623 As it relates to the issue of cooperation, 
Kissinger’s denial is most likely false. General Viljoen, the SADF’s Director of 
Operations at the time and a close adviser to Prime Minister Vorster, much later admitted 
that not only had Pretoria and Washington collaborated in Angola, but also that South 
Africa saw the partnership as beneficial. “South Africa was isolated. Although it was 
done secretly, it was good for South Africa to be cooperating with a big force like the 
U.S.A., even though it was clandestine .” 624 

Additionally, we know from John Stockwell’s account that the CIA was very engaged 
with its South African counterpart - BOSS. He tells us, for example, that after 
IAFEATURE’s authorization in July, Jim Potts, the head of the CIA’s Africa Division, 
met twice in Washington with General Van den Bergh, the head of BOSS. Moreover, 
“The COS, Pretoria, was ordered to brief BOSS about IAFEATURE, and nearly all CIA 


623 See Kissinger’s testimony in Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, January 29, 1976, 13. 
Also, Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 820. 

624 CNN Cold War, “Episode 17: Good Guys, Bad Guy” [database on-line]; available from 
CNN.com/specials/cold.war/episodes. 



446 


intelligence reports on the subject were relayed to Pretoria so his briefings would be 
accurate and up to date.” 625 

In addition to this liaison between the two intelligence organizations, cooperation also 
occurred at the operational level. William Thoms, a former Defense Intelligence Agency 
analyst, confirms Stockwell’s claims that CIA paramilitary experts worked side-by-side 
with S ADF trainers and advisers in support of both UNITA and the FNLA inside 
Angola. 626 He also tells us that, in addition to the Zairian Air Force, the South Africans 
provided air transports to carry American weapons from Kinshasa into Angola. This 
latter cooperative effort was made necessary because, according to Stockwell, the CIA 
was unable to support the logistics pipeline with its own contracted aircraft. 627 That 
there was cooperation between Washington and Pretoria, then, seems obvious, despite 
official denials. 

The second part of Kissinger’s denial - that the United had no foreknowledge of the 
large-scale invasion - is probably also false. My assessment is based on the following 
evidence. Piero Gleijeses’s 1995 interviews with Edward Mulcahy, acting Assistant 
Secretary for African Affairs, and Joseph Sisco, Under Secretary of State in 1975, reveal 
that Kissinger had talks with the South Africans just before their mid-October 

625 Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 187. COS refers to “Chief of Station,” the top CIA official in Pretoria. 

626 William Thom, “Angola’s 1975-1976 Civil War,” Low Intensity Conflict and Law Enforcement 1 
(Autumn 1998): 13. 

6-7 Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 59. 



447 


invasion. ~ Neither was privy to these discussions and unable, or unwilling, to provide 
any details about them. However, Mulcahy, obviously kept in the dark on this highly 
sensitive issue, told Gleijeses that a few days after the invasion “I was told by a very 
senior administration official that Kissinger should have let me know about the talks he 
was having with the South Africans.” 

Sisco was circumspect. ‘“A reasonable premise,’ he told me with a smile, ‘is that 
while it cannot be demonstrated that the administration explicitly took steps to encourage 
South Africa’s intervention, it certainly did not discourage it .’” 629 His statement, of 
course, if a classic example of “plausible denial,” probably underscored by his belief that 
any evidence - at least from the American side - connecting Washington to Pretoria’s 
invasion would not enter the public domain for years, if ever. 

The South Africans Speak 

However, neither he, nor anyone else in Washington, had control over what the South 
Africans might say. Given the fact that Pretoria felt betrayed both by its supposed black 
African allies and the United States after the Tunney Amendment’s passage, much of 


6-8 Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 298-299. 

629 Ibid. Just how Kissinger’s contacts with the South Africans occurred is unknown. Given the sensitivity 
of the issue, he probably used some sort of his preferred back-channel communications. 



448 


what they later had to say about the invasion could be construed as a case of “sour 
grapes.” 630 That, however, does not mean that what they have said is any less truthful. 

In the immediate aftermath of the South African invasion and withdrawal, Pretoria 
was exceptionally discreet, especially about the nature of its relationship with other 
members of the anti-MPLA coalition. Despite this initial restraint, it wasn’t long before 
South African officials began to let slip little details of the Washington-Pretoria 
partnership. 

The first indication that Washington had asked for the South African invasion came 
from Prime Minister Vorster, who gave an interview in May 1976 to Newsweek Senior 
Editor Arnaud Borchgrave. In response to a question about the United States having 
“solicited” South Africa’s help in defeating the Russians and Cubans, the prime minister 
responded, “I do not want to comment on that. . .But if you are making the statement, I 
won’t call you a liar.” The follow-up question asked if it would be accurate to state that 
Henry Kissinger had given Pretoria the green light for its military operation in Angola 


630 South Africa later claimed that several black African national leaders, in addition to the United States, 
encouraged its intervention. These included Zaire’s Mobutu, Leopold Senghor of Senegal, Felix 
Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, and apparently Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. On this subject see 
Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 186; Nicolas Ashford, “South African Learning How Their Country’s 
Troops Became Involved in the Angolan Conflict,” The Times (London), February 17, 1976, 6; Heitman, 
South African War Machine, 170. As noted by Gleijeses, there is disagreement over the Zambia-South 
African connection. Still, most of the available evidence indicates that Kaunda asked Pretoria to intervene 
on behalf of Savimbi. Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 298, and note 126, page 480. 



449 


and that several black African presidents had given “their blessings” for the invasion. 
Vorster replied, “If you say that of your own accord, I will not call you a liar.” 631 

Almost two years later, on April 17, 1978, Defense Minister P.W. Botha was 
apparently still piqued about having been left high and dry by the Americans. Referring 
to the South African invasion of Angola, he told parliament that the operation was carried 
out with the approval and knowledge of the Americans. However, “They left us in the 
lurch. We are going to retell that story: the story must be told of how we, with their 
knowledge, went in there and operated in Angola with their knowledge, how they 
encouraged us to act and, when we had nearly reached the climax, we were ruthlessly left 
in the lurch by an undertaking that was broken.” 632 

The South Africans eventually did provide their official account, but that occurred 
some years later, after the end of both the apartheid system and the Cold War. In these 
latter revelations, high-ranking officials, such as General Viljoen and Pik Botha, the 
South African ambassador in Washington from 1975-1977, continued to claim that 
Pretoria had conducted Operation Savannah at the urging of the United States. In a 1997 
interview, Botha revealed, “The United States, at the highest level, requested assistance, 


631 Interview with Prime Minister John Vorster, “I Won’t’ Call You a Liar,” interview by Arnaud de 
Borchgrave, Newsweek, May 17, 1976, 53. 

632 Cited in Roherty, State Security in South Africa, 59, note 5. The exact quote is from Botha, April 17, 
1978, Republic of South Africa, House of Assembly Debates, col. 4852. See also Gleijeses, Conflicting 
Missions, 299, and note 130, page 480. 



450 


or rather requests South Africa to go in and assist UNITA.” 633 At the time of the 
Angolan conflict, however, he, like many of his associates in the American diplomatic 
community, had been kept in the dark about the exact nature of the Pretoria- Washington 
relationship, as the following discussion illustrates. 

As the debate over the Tunney Amendment elevated that conflict to a major foreign 
policy issue in late November 1975, Ambassador Botha informed the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs in Pretoria that the American Congress would vote to end the American 
involvement by cutting off further funding to the FNLA and UNITA. The Minister, 
Hilgar Muller, then instructed Botha to telephone the prime minister to explain his 
assessment of the political mood in Washington as the date for the Senate’s vote on the 
Tunney Amendment, December 18, approached. 

It was during this telephone conversation that Prime Minister Vorster told his 
Washington ambassador of the earlier American request for South Africa’s assistance. 
The prime minister apparently did not know that Botha was an outsider to the carefully 
guarded communications loop between Washington and Pretoria on Angola. He asked, 
“‘But...’ He used to call me Puck, you see, ‘Puck, but are you not aware of this request?” 
And I said, “no, not at all. It was certainly not routed through me.” The ambassador then 
reiterated his assessment that the Congress would terminate funding for the American 

633 CNN Cold War, “Episode 17: Good Guys, Bad Guys.” 



451 


involvement. Vorster refused to believe Botha, and told him, ‘“But look, we have the 
opposite information from the highest level,’ and that is that the United States would 
continue to support our effort to keep the Cubans as far north as possible.” Botha 
responded, “Sir, I do not know what your sources are, but I’m living close to Capitol Hill; 
I know the senators, I know quite a number of congressmen; I know the sentiments there, 
and they vote the budget, and they are going to withdraw Dr. Kissinger’s funds .” 634 This 
was the only mention of a proper name - not surprisingly, Kissinger - in the 
conversation, as recalled by former Ambassador Botha. 

It should come as no shock that the South African ambassador in Washington had not 
been privy to the most sensitive details of the Pretoria- Washington partnership in Angola. 
Kissinger’s preferred back-channel communications had also kept his acting Assistant 
Secretary for African Affairs, Ed Mulcahy, in the dark, as previously discussed. 

However, it remains a mystery as to how Washington, and specifically Kissinger, 
actually communicated with Pretoria. Piero Gleijeses tried several times to interview the 
American ambassador to Pretoria at that time, William Bowdler . 635 The ambassador 
refused all his requests, so we do not know if he was one of the links in the back-channel 
communications chain. I would guess not - based on the precedence of Ambassador 

634 “Episode 17: Good Guys, Bad Guys: Interview with Pik Botha,” January 19, 2005 [Database on-line]; 
available from http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/interviews/episode-17/botha. 

635 Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 299. 



452 


Davis’ non-involvement in the American operation against the Allende government and 
Kissinger’s propensity to work around, or outside of, the State Department as much as 
possible. 

In sum, we know very little about the exact nature of Washington’s relationship with 
Pretoria throughout the Angolan crisis, although it seems unlikely that the South African 
tail wagged the American dog. What little evidence we do have, mostly from the South 
Africans, points to a joint, cooperative American-South African effort early on in the 
conflict. By mid-September, as the MPLA’s successful military offensive, abetted by 
Cuban trainers and advisers, threatened to destroy, or at least marginalize, both the FNLA 
and UNITA, Washington apparently urged an expansion of the South African role. 
However, and this is my own speculation, given South Africa’s much more important 
stakes in the outcome of the civil war, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Pretoria 
would have made the same decision, with or without Washington’s prodding. 

Conclusion 

There is little reason to believe that any of Washington’s purported African “friends” 
pulled the United States into the Angolan conflict. From Washington’s perspective, 
Zambia was a minor player in the Angolan conflict because, as Kissinger noted, Kaunda 
didn’t have the horsepower to substantially influence the outcome of the war. Moreover, 
although based upon limited evidence, there is little reason to believe that South Africa 



453 


exerted undue influence on the American intervention decision. The South Africans 
enjoyed a working partnership with the Americans throughout the conflict, and the two 
coordinated their efforts in a joint venture from early on. However, as discussed, the 
SADF’s full-scale invasion in October 1975 apparently came with American approval, 
and even urging, suggesting this was a case of the Washington dog wagging the South 
African tail, and not vice versa. 

Zaire’s Mobutu represents the strongest argument for the presence of a percentric 
dynamic in the American decision to intervene in Angola. Zaire was very important to 
the American operation, especially from a logistics standpoint, as I have previously 
discussed, and Washington desired to mend the Zairian- American relationship after 
Mobutu’s coup allegations and Hinton’s expulsion. However, I maintain that Mobutu 
was no more (and no less) than an important cog in the covert operations machinery. 
Because his financial difficulties made him exceptionally dependent upon the United 
States, he was a junior, if necessary, partner in the American intervention, even if 
Washington, at times, appeared to tolerate his manipulative, self-serving impulses. 

I believe the available evidence supports the conclusion that President Ford authorized 
the covert program for Angola because of a confluence of three mutually supporting 
circumstances mostly unrelated to pericentric dynamics. First, both the president and his 
foreign policy architect saw the Soviet involvement as a direct challenge to the regional 



454 


and, ultimately, global balance of power and a test of American will power. As 
geopolitical realists, both believed that it was important to send a strong signal to the 
Soviet Union that the United States was weighing in on the issue. 

Secondly, this concern merged with the opportunity to reinvigorate American 
credibility, which both believed had been dangerously weakened by recent domestic and 
international crises, especially the Vietnam War, by squaring off with the Russians - the 
major Cold War adversary. In this scenario, admitting to Havana’s preeminent role in 
support of the MPLA simply wouldn’t do. The Soviet Union had to be portrayed as the 
leading villain while the Cubans were depicted as Soviet proxies or “Ghurkas .” 636 

Thirdly, confronting the Soviet Union in Angola, even if covertly, also presented the 
opportunity to revalidate American credibility and leadership within the NATO alliance 


636 Interestingly, in early February 1976, just a few days after stressing that the Soviet Union was the main 
culprit and Cuba merely its client state before Senator Clark’s subcommittee hearings on Angola, Kissinger 
reversed his position on the Cuban role. David Binder reported that “knowledgeable officials’’ had told him 
Kissinger was now advancing the idea that “Cuba is again in the business of ‘exporting revolution,’ on its 
own initiative, this time to Angola.” David Binder, “Kissinger Believes Cuba ‘Exports’ Revolution 
Again,” New York Times, February 5, 1976, 12. Despite this apparent epiphany, Kissinger “reportedly” 
decided not to announce this publicly, “preferring instead to hold the Soviet Union primarily responsible 
for large-scale military intervention in Angola, including the presence of 1 1,000 Cuban troops there.” 
Binder reported the rationale for Kissinger’s decision: the United States had no leverage over Cuba, but 
detente gave the United States “considerable” diplomatic leverage with the Soviet Union. Ibid. Given this 
rationale, one wonders, “Why did Washington wait until November to finally approach Moscow on the 
Angolan crisis if, as it often stated, it was so concerned about the “massive” Soviet intervention? 

Moreover, if the United States had considerable diplomatic leverage with the Soviet Union, part of that 
leverage derived from American grain sales to the Russians. Why, then, were grain exports never used, 
either as a stick or carrot, to persuade the Soviets to stop their arms support to the MPLA? The simple 
answer to these questions is that Kissinger was determined to confront the Soviet Union over Angola, for 
all those reasons I have previously discussed, and that he was able to persuade the president of the necessity 
to do so. Moreover, President Ford wasn’t about to curtail the grain deal with the USSR during the run-up 
to the presidential election, thereby imperiling the agricultural-bloc vote. 



455 


and to re-energize the Washington-Beijing relationship. Although spokesmen for the 
Ford Administration justified the American involvement in Angola as a prudent and 
necessary response to Soviet aggression, the commitment side of American credibility 
was equally, and probably more important, to the Angolan decision. Thus, Kissinger 
would emphasize to his State Department colleagues that he didn’t care about Angola’s 
economic wealth or if the Soviet Union acquired a naval base in the country. What he 
cared about was how an American pull-out would play in Beijing and the capitals of 
Western Europe, and what would be the consequences for American global power and 
influence, “If the Europeans then say to themselves if they can’t hold Luanda, how can 
they defend Europe?” or if, “The Chinese. . . say we’re a country that was run out of 
Indochina for 50,000 men and is now being run out of Angola for less than $50 
million. . .how can it be in the US national interest for us to give up on Angola?” 637 

In mid-June 1975, even as Kissinger was pressing Ford for action on Angola, 
Mobutu’s allegation of American involvement in an alleged coup and Hinton’s 
subsequent dismissal provided a timely impetus for action. From this point onward, it 
was not “if’ the United States would intervene in Angola, but “when” and “how.” 


637 State Department, “Memorandum of Conversation, Subject: Department Policy,” December 18, 1975, 
cited in full in Hertsgaard, “The Secret Life of Henry Kissinger.” 



456 


President Ford’s decision of July 18 decided the “when;” Vance’s second trip to Kinshasa 
finalized the details of the “how” - the Mobutu Plan. 638 


638 There was also an important domestic factor in President Ford’s decision on covert action. By 
“standing up to the Russians,” Ford and Kissinger could demonstrate to their domestic critics that they had 
not lost their toughness and that their detente policy did not mean a unilateral abdication of American 
leadership or power. The president, no doubt, hoped that a favorable outcome in Angola, like the 
Mayaguez affair, would bump up his popularity at a critical time in the run-up to the fall 1976 elections. 
While Kissinger probably saw the president’s re-election as important to his own job security, the 
opportunity to silence critics of detente was equally important. 



457 


CHAPTER 7 

AMERICAN INTERVENTION IN ANGOLA: WHO DID WHAT, AND WHEN? 

“The assumption that the United States is merely reacting to a 
Soviet initiative in Angola... is open to question. ” 

Senator Dick Clark 639 

This chapter focuses on the timelines of Soviet and American involvement in the 
Angolan conflict, beginning in 1974. As discussed in Chapter 5, officials of the Ford 
Administration asserted that the American involvement in Angola was a justifiable 
response to Soviet-initiated intervention, supported by the Cubans. Recapping their 
story, they claimed, first, that the United States stayed clear of the Angolan issue during 
the second half of 1974 following the Portuguese coup, despite requests for assistance 
from America’s African friends. Secondly, the Soviet Union allegedly resumed its 
support for the MPLA in August 1974, months before the he Forty Committee’s 
allocation of $300,000 to Holden Roberto on January 22, 1975. As asserted by Kissinger 
and others, this was a modest sum, intended as a political subsidy, and it would be 
“absurd” to think that it “triggered all subsequent escalations.” 640 

Thirdly, from the signing of the Alvor accord in mid- January 1975 until the American 
decision to support both the FNLA and UNITA on July 18, administration officials 
contended that the Soviet Union significantly expanded its military support to the MPLA, 


639 

640 


Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola , January 29, 1976, 8. 
Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 795. 



458 


a decision that the Kremlin must have made in December or January. Additionally, the 
flow of arms from other Communist nations also increased. This massive influx of 
military equipment emboldened the MPLA. With Communist arms pouring in, the 
Popular Movement had little incentive to abide by the terms of the Alvor accord, and it 
was the first side to violate the agreement, in February 1975. The MPLA intensified its 
militant actions against both the FNLA and UNITA throughout the spring, finally 
expelling both from Luanda in early July 1975. 

In sum, from a chronological viewpoint, Kissinger and others maintained that it was 
Soviet actions, specifically its renewed support to the MPLA, commencing in August 
1974 and intensifying in the spring of 1975 that initiated the sequence of events that 
destroyed the Alvor agreement, led to full-scale civil war and escalated the Angolan 
conflict to a Cold War crisis. 

What went unmentioned in the Ford Administration’s official spinning, finessing and 
massaging of the timelines of Soviet and American involvement in Angola were several 
occurrences in mid-to-late 1974 that ratcheted up the potential for a violent 
decolonization process in Angola. These events, and not Soviet actions as alleged by the 
Ford Administration, set the stage for the later action-reaction cycle of external 
intervention. The United States played a crucial role in initiating this early sequence of 
developments, even as the Soviet Union was largely sitting on the sidelines while the 



459 


future of the MPLA, which it had supported since the mid-1950s, became increasingly 
tenuous. It is these important overtures to the later events of 1975 to which I now turn. 

Prelude to American Involvement 

In early 1974, Donald Easum replaced David Newsom as Assistant Secretary of State 
for Africa, inheriting the “Option Two” policy of his predecessor. Following the 
Portuguese coup in April 1974 and Lisbon’s announcement that it would begin 
independence negotiations with its African colonies, Easum and a handful of State 
Department Africanists recognized that change was coming to southern Africa and that 
Option Two’s assumption that “the whites are here to stay,” was no longer valid. 
Moreover, they realized that American policy needed to change to accommodate the new 
reality. Along these lines, Easum told Kissinger that the United States “should harden its 
position toward South Africa, push for majority rule in Rhodesia, and develop a friendly 
policy toward FRELIMO.” 641 

Easum’ s initial and primary focus on the Portuguese decolonization efforts was on 
Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. The process of negotiating independence for both 
commenced shortly after the coup - in late May between the PAIGC and Portugal and in 
early June with Mozambique’s FRELIMO. Despite some initial setbacks, disturbances, 


641 


Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions , 280. 



460 


and disagreements, the process in both colonies was relatively streamlined and trouble 
free. 

Angola, in contrast, became a victim of Lisbon’s internal power struggles. With 
Spinola’s forced resignation in late September 1974, however, the MFA’s leadership 
decided to move quickly on the Angolan independence issue. Even then, however, there 
were major obstacles to implementing a quick transition to independence. Lisbon still 
had no official ceasefire with any of the three contentious liberations movements, which 
continued their mutual hostilities, and the MPLA was in disarray because of its own 
internal power struggle, principally pitting its long-time leader, Agostinho Neto, against 
Daniel Chipenda. In short, the Portuguese had a knotty ball of issues to unravel before 
they could sit down to the table to negotiate a plan for Angola’s future. The timing and 
direction of Angola’s path to independence in the summer and autumn of 1974 were 
difficult to determine and explain Easum’s focus on Portugal’s two other principal 
colonies in Africa. 

This prioritization was on display in early July 1974 as he briefed Henry Kissinger on 
developments in Portuguese Africa. After an overview on the progress of the 
Portuguese-PAIGC negotiations, then on going in Algiers, Easum raised the issue of 
whether or not the United States should support Guinea-Bissau’s admission to the UN, 
since eighty nations had already indicated their approval for such a step. Kissinger didn’t 



461 


want to hear about it, at one point remarking, “That is really what the world needed - a 
country called Guinea-Bissau.” He then somewhat abruptly concluded the discussion on 
the colony by noting, “It is not going to be admitted with our vote until the Portuguese 
have given it independence .” 642 

Easum quickly changed the subject to Mozambique where he noted that while 
negotiations were in progress, the parties were still far apart. Kissinger, who had recently 
met with Portuguese Foreign Minister Mario Soares in Ottawa, seemed reasonably well- 
informed on the situation in Mozambique, remarking that Soares had told him that 
Portugal was eager to get out of Mozambique as quickly as possible. He then asked 
Easum if he thought the South Africans might intervene. Easum told Kissinger, “We 
have seen only one indication of overtures by white Portuguese in Mozambique to the 
South Africans. Ten members of the secret police went to South Africa and discussed 
possible South African support of UDI or a partition of Mozambique.” Still, he 
suggested, correctly, that South Africa would not support such action if black 
Mozambique left South Africa alone . 643 

Just before the discussion had turned to Mozambique, Kissinger had interjected that in 
Ottawa the Portuguese foreign minister had told him that “he has no objections if we take 

642 “The Secretary’s Principles’ and Regional Staff Meeting,” July 10, 1974, pp. 15-16 [Database on-line]; 
available from Digital National Security Archive, Kissinger Transcripts. 

643 Ibid., pp. 16-17. UDI refers to a unilateral declaration of independence, akin to that of neighboring 
white-controlled Rhodesia in 1965. 



462 


up contact with the various liberation movements there. . .1 prohibited it three weeks ago. 
But you can now authorize it.” Easum then advised against such a blanket policy for 
contact with Angola’s three liberation movements, telling Kissinger, “We would like to 
do this in a very ad hoc and specific way. We do not think it is time, for example, for a 
chief of one of our missions to have contacts with the leaders of independence groups 
that are vying among themselves.” 644 

Easum never explained his reasoning for his position on contact with Angola’s 
liberation movements - at least not in this meeting. I venture to guess that his advice was 
based on a belief that the United States should be cautious about its contacts with 
Angola’s three movements so as to avoid giving the impression of American favoritism 
towards any one, most specifically the FNLA. He undoubtedly knew that the CIA had a 
history of supporting Holden Roberto. Indeed, he already had to fend off pressures from 
the Agency’s Africa division, which wanted to revitalize its support for the FNLA and to 
re-open the CIA station in Luanda. 645 


b44 Ibid., pp. 14-15. 

645 As previously discussed, journalist Bruce Oudes and historian Piero Gleijeses have both argued that the 
CIA began to pressure Easum on this issue in the early summer of 1974. Oudes alleges that it was Larry 
Devlin, the former CIA station chief in Kinshasa and head of the Agency’s Africa division before his 
retirement in June 1974, who approached Easum on this issue. Oudes, “South Africa, U.S. Secrets.” 
Gleijeses, who interviewed Easum, writes that it was both Devlin, first, and then Jim Potts, Devlin’s 
successor at Langley, who tried to get Easum’ s support for the FNLA and who wanted to reopen the CIA 
station in Luanda. The station did reopen, in March 1975, but that was only after Easum had been asked to 
resign and went off to Nigeria as the new American ambassador. Easum told Gleijeses that Potts said 
Holden Roberto was a “good guy, who would play an important role, and we should strengthen that role.” 



463 


Moreover, Easum’ s own opinion, and that of at least some of the individuals under 
him in the Africa Bureau, was that the interests of the United States in Angola would be 
best served by being supportive of the MPLA . 646 Further, given that Kissinger, referring 
to Mario Soares, had stated “/re has no objections,” (author’s emphasis) Easum may have 
thought that Soares was speaking for himself and not for Lisbon, which at the very 
moment was undergoing another political shakeup and change in government. Whatever 
the case, if the United States carelessly inserted itself into the unsettled Angolan 
situation, it could further exacerbate Lisbon’s ability to peacefully resolve the thorny 
issues involved in the colony’s road to independence. In fact, that is exactly what 
happened, as will be shortly discussed. 

As the discussion finally turned to Angola, Easum told Kissinger that there was 
“complete disunity on the part of the liberations groups.” He reported that one group, 


Easum, however, disagreed, and to Easum’ s knowledge, Potts did not press the issue at a higher level. 
Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 281. Had Easum concurred in the CIA’s recommendation, the next step 
would have been to present a joint State-CIA proposal for the Forty Committee’s consideration. Tom 
Killoran, the new Consulate General in Luanda, having arrived in country in mid-1974, did, of course, have 
contact with all three liberation movements. He sent Washington several cables detailing his personal 
knowledge and impressions of the three movements and their leaders. Killoran argued that the MPLA was 
best qualified to govern an independent Angola. The leadership of the MPLA was better educated, better 
motivated, politically astute and less tribal. Neto was a moderate, and although many in the Popular 
Movement were ostensibly Marxist, they were closer to European radical socialism. Gleijeses, “Interview 
with Robert W. Hultslander,” former CIA Station Chief in Luanda, Angola. 

646 During Easum’ s interview with Piero Gleijeses, he remarked, “My long-held view was that Frelimo, the 
PAIGC and the MPLA had valid objectives and that their ideology was something we didn’t need to worry 
about, and that we needed to be supportive. . .1 believed that the MPLA was a better partner for the US than 
the FNLA.” He also told Gleijeses that he had discussed Jim Potts’ desire to increase support to the FNLA 
and reopen the Luanda station with his “people,” and they had agreed with his assessment of the MPLA 
and FNLA. Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 281. 



464 


presumably UNITA, which at the time had an informal ceasefire with the Portuguese, had 
quit fighting. A second faction, the MPLA, couldn’t decide whether to continue fighting 
or not. However, the FNLA, “perhaps the strongest,” was increasing its military activity. 
Mobutu was supporting the group and had just brought in Chinese military trainers for 
the FNLA. Kissinger’s one- word response was “Okay,” after which he changed the 
topic, apparently having had his fill of African affairs for the day. 647 

The CIA and the FNLA, 1974 

Unknown to Easum during that 10 July meeting - who would certainly have strongly 
objected - but probably not to Kissinger, the CIA had already taken action to enhance its 
support to Holden Roberto and his FNLA. 648 Without an official recommendation from 
the Forty Committee, which, by law, was required only for “major and/or politically 


647 “The Secretary’s Principles’ and Regional Staff Meeting,” July 10, 1974, p. 17. 

648 That the State Department did not know that the CIA, via its Kinshasa station, had begun to dole out 
more money to Holden Roberto was not unprecedented, of course. As I previously discussed, in early 
1961, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) found out for the first time that 
the CIA had been giving Roberto “financial assistance for some years,” and that “the Department first 
learned of this connection last March when the Agency raised with the Department the question as to 
whether it would be in the U.S. interest to support the UPA itself.” The UPA was the predecessor to the 
FNLA. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963 , vol. XXI, Africa, “Letter 
from the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hilsman) to the President’s Special Assistant 
for National Security Affairs (Bundy),” May 23, 1961 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing 
Office, 1995), 543. Also, there was a more recent precedent. During the effort to discredit and destroy the 
Allende government in Chile, from 1970-1973, Nixon, Kissinger and the CIA kept the State Department, 
including the American ambassador in Santiago, completely in the dark. In fact, the three-year effort was 
never presented to the formal Forty Committee for its consideration. Nathaniel Davis, the ambassador at 
the time, was being truthful when he denied having any hand in the military coup that unseated the Allende 
government. 



465 


sensitive covert action programs ,” 649 the CIA station in Kinshasa could only provide a 
small increase in the yearly stipend then allotted to Roberto, allegedly for intelligence 
purposes. As John Stockwell tells us, however, it was “enough for word to get around 
that the CIA was dealing itself into the race .” 650 The CIA’s Angolan desk officer, the 
anonymous Brenda MacElhinney, added her own words to Stockwell’ s presumption that 
the CIA’s action would not go unnoticed. She informed him that the “flagrant, semiovert 
activities” of the CIA’s station in Kinshasa “ensured that American support of the FNLA 
would be widely known .” 651 This July action by the CIA, or at least its station in 
Kinshasa, no doubt caught the attention of Soviet officials in Kinshasa, although they 
may not have been aware of the extent of the CIA’s increased commitment to Roberto 
and were left guessing as to the intent. 

They were certainly also aware of the presence of a large contingent of Chinese 
advisers who were training the FNLA, since Kinshasa had publicly announced its arrival 


649 U.S. Congress, Senate, Staff Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operation with 
Respect to Intelligence Activities, Covert Action in Chile, 1963-1973 , Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government 
Printing Office, 1975, 41, as cited in Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions , 281. Gleijeses notes that the 
increased amount was $10,000 per month, citing “Mulcahy to SecState,” May 13, 1975, Policy Planning 
Staff, Box 368, National Archives. Ibid. 

650 Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 67 and 258. Stockwell lists July 7, 1974 as the date of the initiation of 
the funding increase to Roberto. No doubt, at least some of the increased finances came from the CIA’s 
Kinshasa station free funds which, given the large size of the station, were probably substantial. Stockwell 
is again enlightening on the special categories of available money at CIA stations. As explained, while he 
was the Chief of Station in Bujumbura, Burundi, a small operation, he had “$900 per year in 
‘representational’ funds, plus an unlimited amount of ‘operational entertainment’ funds, plus a virtually 
unlimited fund for agent’s salaries, bribes, and gifts. Altogether I had about $30,000 cash each year to dole 
out or spend to enhance my effectiveness.” Ibid., 63. 

651 Ibid., 67. 



466 


- and with some fanfare. In light of the Sino-Soviet rivalry, especially in the Third 
World, and the fear that anti-Soviet forces would be strengthened in sub-Saharan Africa 
if the MPLA were marginalized, these events no doubt concerned the Kremlin . 652 
Further, all this was occurring during an extended hiatus in the Kremlin’s support for the 
MPLA, mainly because of the movement’s internal power struggle . 653 Thus, the evolving 
situation between the United States and the FNLA, which further solidified the CIA’s 
historical ties to the FNLA leader and vice versa, as well as the close relationship 


65 ~ The China Factor was clearly on the mind of Kremlin decision makers before and during the buildup to 
the Angolan Civil War. Anatoly Dobrynin, former Soviet ambassador to the United States, has remarked, 
for example, “the Politburo felt we had to show the flag against China in Africa so as not to be seen by 
international communist or democratic movements as being idle in postcolonial areas.” Anatoly Dobrynin, 
In Confidence, Moscow’s Ambassador to America’s Six Cold War Presidents (1962-1986) (New York: 
Time Books, 1995), 362. The Soviet Union also consistently insinuated Chinese-American collusion in 
Angola, which was not true, although there was certainly a convergence of interests, at least until the major 
South African invasion in October 1975. By way of example, Pravda reported in July 1975 that “The 
duplicitous stand taken by Peking, which claims to be a ‘friend’ of those fighting for independence and 
progress but in reality is collaborating with American imperialist agents and giving military aid to the 
henchmen of neocolonialism, is arousing increasing indignation in the African countries.” S. Kulik, 
“Peking’s Subversive Activities,” Pravda, July 18, 1975, 5; reported in The Current Digest of the Soviet 
Press XXVII, no. 29 (August 13, 1975): 6. For an excellent analysis of the Chinese factor in Soviet 
decision making on Angola, see Garhoff, Detente and Confrontation, Chapter 15, “Competition in the 
Third World: Angola, 1975-1976,” especially 582-585. Garthoff argues that China’s support for the 
FNLA was the Soviet Union’s primary consideration in 1974. This was overtaken by their concerns about 
American involvement in Angola during the latter half of 1975. Further, he supports the contention that 
while the Soviets saw a rivalry with both the Chinese and the Americans for influence in Angola, they also 
believed that the two were acting in collusion against the Soviet Union throughout the Third World. Ibid., 
585,583. 

653 Lucio Lara, Neto’s top political adviser, told Gleijeses during an interview that the Chinese support for 
the MPLA in the early 1970s, which included political and military training of a small MPLA cadre in 
China and military training of MPLA guerrillas in Tanzania, may have contributed to the Soviet suspension 
of aid. However, Lara added, “it was primarily due to our internal difficulties.” Gleijeses, Conflicting 
Missions, 243. 



467 


between the Chinese and the FNLA, probably prompted the Soviets to reassess their 
relationship with the MPLA. 

That Easum was unaware of the CIA’s increased support to Holden Roberto in mid- 
1974 is not surprising since he had already told the CIA that he and the African Bureau 
would not support the Agency’s plans. He probably believed that the subject had been 
laid to rest, because he told Gleijeses that as far as he knew, Jim Potts did not take the 
issue up his chain of command. However, there is reason to at least suggest that Potts, or 
more likely, William Colby, apprised Kissinger about the enhanced financial assistance 
to Holden Roberto. 

While the CIA may have believed that the small amount of the additional support did 
not require a determination by the Forty Committee, William Colby, new to the DCI 
position, perhaps desired at least an unofficial approval of the action. Since Kissinger, in 
his position as national security adviser to the president, chaired the Forty Committee, it 
would make sense for Colby to inform him and to at least receive his sanction on the 
impending action. Then too, although Easum has stated that he believed Jim Potts did 
not take the issue of increased support to Holden any further, Gleijeses suggests this may 
not have been true. In his interview with an anonymous, senior CIA official who was 
involved in the Angolan operation, “Y” said he believed that Potts had, in fact, discussed 
the issue with Colby. He could not confirm that Colby had taken further action, 



468 

however. 654 It is not unreasonable to assume that Colby brought it up with Kissinger, 
outside the formal Forty Committee structure, which by 1974 had evolved into nothing 
more than a rubber stamp organization, meeting only infrequently, and under the 
complete control of Henry Kissinger. 655 

Even if Colby did not approach Kissinger on the issue during the summer of 1974, 
given that Kissinger’s attention was focused on Watergate and the impending resignation 
of the president, and the CIA instead took action on its own initiative (not without 
precedent), 656 Kissinger knew of the July 1974 increase of support by at least mid-May of 
1975. As Gleijeses tells us, on May 13, 1975, Edward Mulcahy of the State department’s 
Africa Bureau informed him about the July 1974 increase of $10,000 per month to 


654 Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 281. 

655 William R. Corson, The Rise of the American Intelligence Empire (New York: The Dial Press/James 
Wade Books, 1977), 413. Corson’s analysis of the intelligence community’s role, especially that of the 
CIA, during the Nixon White House concludes that both Nixon and Kissinger believed that the Forty 
Committee should, and would, be circumvented under certain circumstances, such as a “truly covert 
operation (like the military coup d’etat in Chile).” Ibid. As presidential historian Robert Dallek tells us, 
the formal Forty Committee was not involved in the decision to discredit and destroy the Allende 
government in Chile. Rather, Nixon directly authorized the operation during an Oval Office meeting with 
Kissinger, Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms, and Attorney General John Mitchell. Robert 
Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 207), 235. See 
also Macy and Kaplan, Doc. 57, “Meeting with President on Chile at 1525 Sept 14 ’70,” 168. Nixon and 
Kissinger obviously desired full control over the covert program, with Kissinger acting as Nixon’s “point 
man in managing the CIA’s Chilean operation.” Moreover, “Nixon was also determined to hide his policy 
from State and Defense,” both members of the Forty Committee. Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger, 234. 

656 In late April 1976, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (the Church Committee) released its 
heavily censored report on U.S. intelligence activities. One of the Committee’s findings was that the CIA 
had conducted about 900 major or politically sensitive covert programs since 1961, plus several thousand 
lesser operations. Referring to the latter, the report noted, “A great proportion of the operations ... were 
never subject to review outside the CIA.” “Senate Panel’s Report on Intelligence Activities,” May 1, 1976 
[Database on-line]; available from World News Digest Facts on File. 



469 

Roberto. 657 This gives the lie to the Ford Administration’s argument that the United 
States did not become involved in the Angolan affair until the January 1975 authorization 
of political funding to Holden Roberto. 

Efforts to Eliminate the MPLA 

The next important events in this narrative on American involvement in Angola in 
1974 were the meetings on the island of Sal, hosted by General Spinola in mid- 
September, and in Kinshasa in early October, with Mobutu as the host aboard his 
personal yacht (see Chapter 4 for a discussion of these meetings). The Zairian president 
and the recently American-enriched Holden Roberto were at the center of both of these 
gatherings, which notably excluded representatives from the Agostinho Neto wing of the 
MPLA. 

It is important to remember at this crucial juncture that Holden Roberto’s FNLA had 

rightfully earned the reputation as the most belligerent of the three liberation movements, 

especially in its relationship with the MPLA, and in this it received the full support of 

Zaire. The history of FNLA-MPLA hostilities dated back at least to the early 1960s, 

when the Zairian government threw the Popular Movement out of Kinshasa (then 

Leopoldville). It then established its new headquarters across the Congo River in 

Brazzaville. Thereafter, the FNLA repeatedly attacked MPLA fighters as they tried to 

657 “Mulcahy to SecState,” May 13, 1975, Policy Planning Staff, Box 368, National Archives, cited in 
Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 281. 



470 


enter northern Angola to carry out operations against the Portuguese, to the extent that its 
operations in the area were largely circumscribed. 

The Popular Movement did enjoy some military success against the Portuguese in 
Cabinda, where the FNLA’s presence was minimal, and in 1966-1967, it opened an 
eastern Angolan front from bases in the newly independent Zambia. Even there, 
however, it met with FNLA hostility, and its guerrilla forces engaged in clashes with the 
National front (and also UNITA) as often as it did with the Portuguese. 658 

The Neto wing’s exclusion from both the Sal and Kinshasa meetings, then, was in 
keeping with both Zairian and FNLA efforts to dilute the MPLA’s presence in Angola’s 
future. Much speculation has surrounded the purpose and results of these two meetings, 
but informed opinions, ranging across the political spectrum, almost unanimously agree 
that one of the objectives was to eliminate the Neto faction as a political actor in 
Angola. 659 


658 John Marcum notes that even though there was continuing animosity between the FNLA and UNITA, in 
eastern Angola the two seemed to have a tacit agreement to avoid military clashes with each other, but not 
with the MPLA. Marcum, The Angolan Revolution, vol. II, 211-212. Marcum, who spent time with the 
FNLA inside Angola in the late 1960s, also described the FNLA as “the movement most committed to a 
military strategy.” Ibid., 257. Interestingly, on July 13, just days after the CIA had “dealt itself into the 
race,” Roberto’s propensity for militancy, in words and deeds, came through loud and clear in a declaration 
from his Kinshasa stronghold. He vowed to increase the FNLA’s military operations in Angola and to keep 
on fighting “for another 13 years if necessary.” Thomas A. Johnson, “Angolan Rebels Refuse to Form a 
Joint Front for Truce Talks,” New York Times, July 14, 1974, 12. 

659 See Chapter 4 for a discussion of the various “theories” on the purpose of the two meetings. Historian 
Norrie MacQueen’s analysis of the meetings basically dismisses the various conspiracy theories. She 
ultimately concludes, however, that the Sal meeting was part of the staunchly anti-Communist Spinola’s 
plan, assisted by Zaire’s Mobutu, to prevent the transfer of power in Angola to what he believed was a pro- 



471 


Following the Kinshasa meeting and the October 14 ceasefire between the FNLA and 
Lisbon, trained FNLA combatants reportedly moved into northern Angola. Roberto’s 
“silent invasion” supports the idea that the participants in the Sal and Kinshasa meetings 
had decided that Holden Roberto’s FNLA was to play the major role in Angola’s future, 
either through intimidation or use of his military forces as necessary. As sources told 
African journalist Godwin Matatu, “Holden’s army is his political ace, and he will not 
hesitate to play it.” The troop movement, allegedly taken in support of impending 
political activities inside Angola, was part of a strategy “to strengthen Roberto’s claims to 
the leadership of a provisional government.” 660 

As the FNLA moved in force into northern Angola, its militant reputation was borne 
out. FNLA guerrillas, largely ethnic Bakongo, attacked migrant Ovimbundu coffee 
workers, causing them to flee to nearby towns or back to their ethnic homeland in central 
and southern Angola. Despite this violence, the Portuguese military forces in the region 
maintained the newly concluded ceasefire with the FNLA and reportedly did nothing to 
stop the attacks against civilian workers. 661 


Soviet movement, as had happened in Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. MacQueen, The Decolonization of 
Portuguese Africa, 168. 

660 Matatu, “Angola: When the Guns Begin to Flower,” 45. 

661 Thomas A. Johnson, “Laborers Fleeing Farms in Angola,” New York Times, October 20, 1974, 19. 
Johnson, who reported extensively on Angola from both Kinshasa and Luanda during the summer and fall 
of 1974, noted that as many as one third of the 100,000 migrant workers had fled the violence, “leaving 
behind dim prospects for future coffee harvests.” Ibid. Savimbi, of course, was an Ovimbundu, and these 
laborers were a part of his ethnic base. 



472 


The FNLA, the first movement to sign a formal ceasefire, was also the first to arrive in 
Luanda, in early November, where it set up political offices. New York Times 
correspondent Thomas Johnson reported from Luanda on the National Front’s arrival, 
noting, “Certainly better outfitted and apparently better organized than their rivals, the 
delegations political activists were backed up here by about 70 well-armed and newly 
uniformed soldiers. Some 200 more soldiers are billeted just outside the city.” On 
Wednesday, November 13, an additional 200 FNLA political activists arrived via an Air 
Zaire DC- 10. 662 Reflecting on the apparent prosperity of the FNLA contingent, Johnson 
noted that the movement’s principal supporter was Zaire, hence the DC- 10, but that 
rumors abounded that United States was also supporting the FNLA through Zaire. While 
American officials in Zaire, presumably embassy personnel, had denied the United States 
was in contact with or provided aid to Holden Roberto, other “informed” American and 
guerrilla sources contradicted the denial. One American told Johnson, “We would be 
fools not to back the F.N.L.A. with Russia so chummy with the M.P.L.A.” 663 

The first MPLA delegation, headed by Neto’s top political adviser, Lucio Lara, 
arrived on November 8, and the first of UNITA’s contingent arrived two days later. 
Violence in Luanda erupted nearly simultaneously with the arrival of the liberation 
movements’ political cadres, as all three movements began actively recruiting new 


662 

663 


Thomas A. Johnson, “One Rebel Group Gains in Angola,” New York Times , November 24, 1974, 7. 
Ibid. 



473 


supporters throughout the city, but especially in the musseques (slums), a traditional 
stronghold of the MPLA. The FNLA largely blamed the Neto wing of the MPLA for 
instigating the fighting. The MPLA in Luanda denied that its leadership had initiated the 
violence and denounced it, but there is little doubt that Popular Movement partisans in 
Luanda’s musseques were involved, perhaps initiating some of the fighting and certainly 
retaliating. However, on-scene Portuguese officials recognized that they, along with the 
three liberation factions, had little control over the situation and “what went on inside the 
vast slums.” 664 

In his testimony before Senator Clark’s African Affairs subcommittee in early 
February 1976, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, William Schaufele, noted 
that the MPLA had received thousands of Soviet- supplied AK-47s in the fall of 1974 for 
its supporters in the “ghettoes,” termed “People’s Power” (Poder Popular), which acted as 
an auxiliary to the MPLA’s regular military force. He remarked that these assault 
weapons were used in the November violence, intimating the MPLA was largely 
responsible for initiating the violence. 665 


664 Thomas A. Johnson, “A Coalition Rule in Angola Put Off,” New York Times, November 14, 1974, 6. 
On the violence in Luanda, which continued sporadically throughout November, see also, “50 Casualties 
Feared in New Angola Violence,” The Times (London), November 8, 1974, 9; Thomas A. Johnson, 
“Violence on Wane in Angolan Capital after 50 Are Killed,” New York Times, November 12, 1974, 6, and 
“Toll is Put at 100 in Angola Capital,” November 13, 1974, 11; “Violence in Luanda Delays 
Independence,” New York Times, November 17, 1974, 245. 

665 Senate, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Angola, February 6, 1976, 184. Administration spokesmen, 
alleging that the MPLA was emboldened by the Soviet support it was receiving, consistently blamed the 



474 


The fact of the matter is, it was (and remains) unclear who was fighting and killing 
whom. The leader of the UNITA delegation, identified as Dr. Fernando Wilson, denied, 
incorrectly, that any supporters of the three liberation movements were fighting one 
another, instead indicting the Portuguese who, he said, “cannot control their soldiers .” 666 
However, from the available reporting on the violence, it appears that some of it occurred 
between Neto and Chipenda supporters in the musseques. Other violent outbreaks 
probably resulted from, as the Portuguese claimed, “banditry and criminals ,” 667 and some 
was black on white and vice versa, a continuation of the July- August uprising in the 
musseques, where half of the capital city’s black Africans were estimated to reside. 

That aside, Swedish journalist Per Wastberg was in Luanda during November as the 
three delegations arrived and violence broke out throughout Luanda. Along with 
members of a Swedish aid delegation, eyewitnesses to these November events, he claims 
that the FNLA was largely behind the disorder and chaos. He reported, for example, that 
what he suspected were FNLA supporters, sometimes wearing MPLA badges and 
identifying themselves as MPLA, committed a large number of robberies and assaults. 


MPLA for initiating the violence in Luanda in the fall of 1974 and throughout the spring and summer 
following the January 1975 Alvor agreement. In contrast, they exonerated Holden Roberto’s FNLA, which 
had moved in force into northern Angola in October and November, attacking civilian laborers along the 
way, from perpetrating any violence except in retaliation. 

666 Johnson, “Violence on Wane in Angolan Capital after 50 Are Killed.” 

667 The reason the Portuguese officials attributed at least some of the violence to criminals probably relates 
to the many still at-large prisoners who escaped from Luanda’s main prison in June. “Fifty Casualties 
Feared in New Angola Violence.” 



475 


Moreover, he observed what seemed to be coordination between certain disruptive 

actions and the quick appearance of FNLA uniformed troops: 

In the city district where the MPLA is strongest, shots are fired. 

At least fifty people die, hundreds are wounded. When FNLA 
troops arrive on the spot, the shooting stops as if at a given sign. 

The water supply is turned off in one part of the city; the FNLA 
appears with water carts. There is a bus strike. The FNLA 
school buses turn up with the words written on them, ‘Gift from 
the FNLA. Brother if you have money pay; if you haven’t, 
just get in.’ Doctors, arms, money come pouring in from 
Kinshasa . 668 


As Luanda erupted in violence, the recently ousted top MPLA military commander, 
Daniel Chipenda, who had opened offices in Kinshasa in early October at Mobutu’s 
invitation, added fuel to the fire by attacking the legitimacy of the Neto wing of the 
movement. Holden Roberto, his newly found ally, supported him in this endeavor. 
Officials from both Chipenda’ s splinter organization and the FNLA threatened to 
recommence hostilities against the Portuguese if they recognized or negotiated with the 


668 Per Wastberg, “The Debate on the Aid to Angola,” Dagens Nyheter , March 11, 1975, available in an 
English version from Facts and Reports 5, no. 7, April 5, 1975, 3. Although partial toward the MPLA, Dr. 
Wastberg is a most credible source. In addition to his work at Dagens Nyheter , Sweden’s major daily 
newspaper, for which he had also served as editor-in-chief, he is currently president of the Nobel 
Committee for Literature, vice president of the International Writers Association (PEN), and president of 
the Swedish PEN. He is a long-time human rights activist and was banned from Rhodesia and South Africa 
during the years of minority white rule. He and several members of the Swedish International 
Development Agency (SID A) were in Angola in late 1974 and early 1975 un